Address (Excerpts) by Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar, Honourable Vice President at the officer Trainees of Indian Information Service (IIS) 2022-23 Batch at Vice-President's Enclave in New Delhi on June 18, 2024.

New Delhi | June 18, 2024

Good evening all of you! Looking at you I am surcharged, I am energised. I rollback more than 50 years, when I was around your age, in the same situation as you are.

Shri Sunil Kumar Gupta Ji, Secretary to the Vice President of India, Shri Sanjay Jaju, Secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and it is a very important Ministry for India that is home to 1/6 of humanity. Dr Anupama Bhatnagar, Director IIMC, Delhi. You would always remember her. She must have been very tough also. This tougheness will make you tough for all the time. Distinguished members of the Information ministry and those attached to my office, three of them being from your service.

It is always a delight when one comes across young energetic vibrant officers and that too from Indian Information Service. I can assure you with full confidence that exponential rise of Bharat, its growth trajectory is just like growth trajectory of your service. The relevance of your service is increasing day by day and I am sure you are fully aware of it. As a matter of fact your service is dominating the current discourse because information is power, information is too dangerous a power, and information is that power which has to be regulated. Unregulated information, fake news can create havoc, unmanageable proportion of disaster.

So look up, you are part of a very important service. This may not have been a situation in 1960 when I became Union Minister after being elected to Parliament in 1989. I had Parliamentary Affairs portfolio. My Cabinet Minister, Mr Upendra was Information and Broadcasting Minister and I recall Mr SD Mathur was the Secretary of the Department, that Department that exposed me to the larger areas of growth and that was a time when Information Technology was not in that form, when media was extremely limited. We did not have private channel. We have All India Radio and Doordarshan was not 7 days a week and just imagine how much you have traversed. Unimaginable, beyond imagination. You are part of that system.

Congratulations to you on becoming part of a service which gives you an opportunity to serve 1/6th of humanity and second in particular being part of this service. In any democracy and mind you, India is mother of democracy, most vibrant functional democracy on the planet, the largest democracy. In any democracy the legitimacy of the government depends on the amount of trust people have in it. The trust of the people is fundamental to blossoming and nurturing of any democracy. In this, your role is critical, crucial. Whatever may be the achievements you are the conveyance agency because you carry credibility in the mind of the ordinary person. What emanates from the official media is taken by large populace as authentic reflection of the ground reality. For a vibrant democracy which our Bharat is, and we are a democracy at the moment that is on the rise in economic terms.

We have navigated the difficult time from being fragile 5 economies to large 5 economies of the globe, on way to becoming 3rd largest global economy by I think in next 2-3 years. Now, for such a democracy that is varied both in terms of Geography history ethnicity culture, the bedrock is communication because it is communication that sustains the trust of the people.

It is one of the most critical aspects of governance on which depends the success of policy and programs. A policy maybe having cutting edge, a policy may be extremely impactful but if the information does not get generated it does not get Wings it does not get geometric dimension, the impact is lost and that force is to be created by you. My young friends as communicators you are the custodians of public trust because public believe in you. You are entrusted to provide authentic and accurate information. It is your duty to make available information without qualification without adulteration because that will help formulation of a policy. It is information that I take as equivalent to MRI in medical terms. The doctor, the policy maker here will be able to take all necessary steps based on your information.

Friends, as IIS officers you are enjoined and equipped to act as a bridge between citizens and their elected government. This job is to be done by several Institutions. Parliament is one forum, public representative is another but you are in live contact with the people. You have to see that this bridge is functional 24x7 and well greased by authentic information that carries highest degree of credibility and sanctity.

Friends, it is heartening, soothing and congratulation for your service, the role you have played recently in LokSabha elections. Just imagine how special it was. The kind of work you did inspired the electorate the festival of festival in democratic nation to engage into that act. It is your service that has made aware the entire world not only Bharat that facing all odds of weather terrain, how electoral process of this country has earned name and fame. Increasing voter awareness and securing the greater participation in the world largest democracy, reaching the citizen at the very last mind, enabling every single voter to exercise the most valuable constitutional right and obligation is mammoth task by all means and mind you severity and extremities of weather conditions in these difficult situations, you have acquitted yourself admirably well.

By working together with the constitutional mechanism, the Election Commission, you have done a commendable job exemplifying dedication and a directional approach. That is evident in a number of photos this election has seen. Friends, this election, our Bharat has created a world record, and that is bound to be unbeatable because this record will improve with every coming election.

642 million voters—the highest voter turnout in the world—that is our achievement! It is 1½ times the number of voters of all the G7 countries. Imagine the size of it: two and a half times the voters of 27 European countries all put together. Unbelievable achievement! That is the stability of our democracy. This democracy is so mature, so functional, so deeply embedded in our ethos and our mindset. Irrespective of caste, creed, color, regional diversity, and ethnicity, we have come as one force to exercise our constitutional right to evolve awareness of the kinds you believe in.

Friends, the world has truly arrived in the information age. Information is power. They talked of the industrial revolution as a game changer. Now, information is the game changer. Information is the defining moment in our growth journey. Information is touching the lives of every individual. Your jobs come into play.

Social media responses by state actors have eliminated gatekeepers who would earlier mediate the communication process. People manipulate information; people create false information that has no basis. Free fall of information, even in parliament! It is time you act with lightning speed. You have to neutralize false information; you have to nip in the bud the fake news.

Sometimes, information can be ruinous for an institution or an individual. Who protects the individual if there is a narrative set afloat in social media about individual, fake news? You are the warriors. You have to play on the front foot. You have to save the privacy of the person, the reputation of the person, the reputation of individuals and institutions.

Friends, it is alarming and worrisome that some misguided sources engage in the dissemination of false information. They create narrative that aims to taint, tarnish, diminish, and demean our institutions, in which we take pride. These forces, sinister forces with pernicious agendas, are operating in small numbers in the country and outside. You are the warriors, information warriors. You have to neutralize this.

I am happy to share with you that our official media has performed excellently in an exemplary manner, having a tag of independence and neutrality. Salutations and accolades to the official media! But you will have to be 24x7 awake and alert to do your job. In the process, you are required to keep on learning and relearning. You will have to update yourself with updated technology. Disruptive technologies have entered every facet of our life. These are not worse for you because you will have to contend with them.

I had the occasion to share experiences with the global forum that even in warfare, information is the most potent weapon. Misinformation can really create havoc in defense matters. It is in that situation you will be required to employ machine learning. You will be required to act very fast. You will always have to be in the driver’s seat

You cannot be led by a narrative. You cannot be allowed to suffer the flood of a narrative. Therefore, I can tell you, you have a daunting task, a challenging task, an interesting task, and you have to be the global best.

Each of you, I am sure, will spend some time every day or every week gathering the best practices that are in vogue globally because our human resource is indisputably the best in the world.

Friends, the easy availability of smartphones was once a dream in the '90s. Those who lived through it would know that having a smartphone was out of the question. We would have a handset, and that handset was big enough to be flaunted as an accessory of reputation, and the charges were phenomenal. We didn't have smartphones or phones in our country.

In the last 10 years, we have navigated to the extent that our manufacturing units are in three digits, exporting smartphones. A large population now has smartphones. Our internet usage, you will collectively know, on average per capita, is more than the USA and China taken together. Our people are extremely adaptive to technology.

Now, a smartphone is an asset. Any smartphone can create havoc, and therefore, I say the easy availability of smartphones, along with the extent of internet penetration that has reached even the villages, is remarkable. Our digital penetration has been acclaimed by the World Bank, noting that Bharat has achieved in 6 years what otherwise would have taken more than 4 decades.

The variety of social media platforms is growing. There is a mushroom growth of social media platforms, unregulated and reckless. They have made every citizen, in a positive sense, a communicator, but in the worst sense, an army of communicators. There is a small category that is disruptive, that may not believe in our nationalism, that may not align with our growth trajectory, and that tends to harm us. Such kinds of narratives immediately get vertical growth. You are the only ones who can arrest their ill rise and deal with them effectively.

Friends, this makes your work as communication professionals even more complex and nuanced.Information is fine, friends, but disinformation has emerged as a very big threat to peace, stability, and even democracy in an age of information revolution. Disinformation has a great impact on our security mechanism, on our defense mechanism. The most developed nations are also not immune to this menacing trend. The free fall of information without premise poses a challenge.

It is not easy to make citizens aware. There is a tendency to be carried away by sensation, a tendency to believe what is otherwise not correct. Therefore, you have to do extra work to blunt it.

Friends, information dissemination plays a decisive role in the current geostrategic scenario. The ability to shape narratives, influence decisions, build opinions, and project perceptions contributes to a nation’s diplomatic soft power arsenal.

Friends, your work does not just influence national audiences but also shapes India's image on the global stage. India is on the rise as never before. Today, it is no longer a sleeping giant. It is a land of hope and possibilities.

From a global perspective, we are a favorite destination for investment and opportunities. Just imagine: only recently, our foreign exchange reserve crossed 658 billion dollars. I am a product of that political resume in 1989 when our economy size was less than that of the cities of London and Paris, and our foreign exchange was fluctuating between 1 billion and 2 billion dollars in physical form. Our physical gold had to be placed in two banks in Switzerland. Look where we are now.

You, therefore, are lucky to be serving Bharat in this capacity of public service, in an ecosystem where our mood is upbeat and the world looks at us with hope. We are all engaged in the Marathon March @2047.When I interacted with global leaders, what I told them was a surprise to them. For example, how many digital certificates? Just imagine, 200 crore certificates were made available to the citizens, paperless, authentic, and easily verifiable.

Therefore, the world needs to know Bharat more, and your role comes into play more impact fully. Now, letter writing has largely gone unless those who are really crazy about keeping records continue it. Communication has become very different. Communication is 24x7; it is audio, it is video, it is scripted. However, when it becomes motivated and that motivated narrative is set afloat by global media, we tend to believe it. Anything coming from there, we think, must be right. The world acknowledges our DNA that our human resource is the best in the world. We must never allow others to calibrate us the way they do; we must be our own. Negative narratives set by global media must be blunted.

In this context, there is a need to reach out to the world in a manner that truly reflects the immensity of the journey we have traversed over the past decade. Use varied channels and platforms to project India’s achievements, aspirations, and contributions to the world. As communicators, the Indian Information Service thus has an extremely important role to play in building "Brand India."

There may be any degree of achievement, and accomplishment may take pride, but you have to sculpt and shape Brand India.Your ability to project Bharat’s progress effectively, transcending barriers of geography, will further help propel our growth story. And what is this progress?

India has achieved what we could never imagine. In my age, we could never dream of it. As a matter of fact, you cannot believe it: the village I lived in had no electricity, no water, no toilet, no road, and no connectivity. You can't find a village like this now. That is our progress.

Nation first has to be our Motto. It is not optional, it is the only way out and ensure that nationalist perspective remains at the heart of information dissemination. Dear friends, Nations defence is not limited to borders now, it is not defined by conventional warfare now. National security today is an aggregation of myriad attributes. The military is just one part of the pie apart from land, air, water and space, it is information that forms the fifth dimension, the significant dimension, the cutting dimension and this plays decisive role.

What we know about conflagrations in the world is by the way of Information and therefore your job is all the way more effective. Disturbing, manipulative divisive agenda driven narrative peddled in our information space by proxy present a real danger to the sovereignty and integrity of our nation.

I appeal to you to new neutralize the motivated sinister pernicious narratives that attempt to taint and tarnish our democracy and sully are constitutional Institutions. Friends, we need also to let the world know what kind of a country we are. We are a country without a parallel, we are a country that has a rich cultural heritage, diversity of strength. Our 5000 years civilization ethos required to be known to the world. If you look at the new building of Parliament or Bharat Mandapam you will find reflection of our Civilization and that is our national Pride the world needs to know it.

Friends, governance in democracy are citizen centric. Citizen is at the heart of it and that citizen is in the last row. Therefore there has to be last mile delivery and the last mile delivery happens when information focus is there because there will always be people who will try to monetize development without actually doing it but you have information that will expose such people and last mile delivery will be assured.

Friends you can guide young citizen towards enabling ecosystem that avoid them, helping them achieve their dreams, analysing the role of nation building. I urge you to stay updated with the latest trending media and communication to enhance and sharpen your skills. I am grateful to the three Information Officer. I am so updated about the globe, national events. They believe in a mechanism where sobriety of the office is reflected. The nation through me comes to know the ground reality. I would not have been able to connect with the youth of this country if my Information Officers had not done what they are doing. We must dent those who use information which has no premises.

Friends, be attentive to narratives on social media and this is a tough task. The growth is getting absolutely in an unimaginable direction you have to employee Technology that is easily available because you have to learn it and that at a lightning speed. Another aspect that you have to be extremely worried, the world of media and communication has multiple stakeholders. You are the spinal stakeholder, you are stakeholder without agenda you are stakeholder for the nation, you are the stakeholder for the truth, and you are stakeholder for ground reality. It is an ecosystem where you must rise against the clock for information to reach target audience in the time because if I wrong narratives get in motion you will have to run twice the speed to catch it. The Sooner you catch it the more impactful in effective you will be.

While you pass the civil service at this stage in between there must have been proliferation of media channel. It has become a venture. People take it as industry, as a power center. They take pride, I have a media channel, I have you tube, I have following and if sensationalism gets you mega number. You therefore will have to ensure these Stakeholders do not run away our success. They must not have success at the cost of nationalism. I am happy and confident that Bharat will be truly at its pinnacle when it celebrates the centenary of its independence in 2047. Each one of you will be playing a crucial and critical role. Some of us may not be there but I am confident and in 2047 you will be in driver’s seat. You will ever remember my words. They will resonate in your ears that you have played a critical role in shaping the destiny of this great nation.

I wish you the entire best, successful and reaching career ahead as young citizens. As communication professional serving the country, I hope you will continue to strike for India's growth story, sustain its trajectory and empower the citizens at the very last mile. My very best wishes to you, and your families, to your friends.