It spent over 70 percent of the ad money for news channels on Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign.
Of the Rs 160 crore that the Uttar Pradesh government spent on advertisements on TV news channels between April 2020 and March 2021, only Rs 6.3 crore was spent on Covid ad campaigns, reveals a right to information reply by the state government.
The three ad campaigns the government ran were called “Covid-19 relief package facility”, “Covid-19 and controlling communicable disease”, and “Covid 19”.
Contrast this with “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, a much-publicised scheme introduced by the Narendra Modi government last May to promote self-reliance. The Adityanath government spent Rs 115 crore on marketing it on the airwaves – 71 percent of its total ad expenditure.
According to government data, UP recorded more than 11,000 Covid deaths in May and April, 2021, though the numbers are significantly underreported. A sizable chunk of these deaths occurred because of lack of oxygen in the state’s hospitals.
According to a report in Print earlier this year, a pressure swing adsorption oxygen plant “that can supply 24 cylinders worth of gas per day costs about Rs 33 lakh to set up and can be completed in a couple of weeks.”
A Scroll investigation had found that 14 hospitals across UP were supposed to get an oxygen plant, according to a tender floated by the Modi government in October 2020. By the time the second wave hit in April, “not one of the 14 hospitals reported having a functional oxygen plant.”
Last month, Newslaundry reported that the Network18 group was the biggest beneficiary of the state government’s ads, pocketing Rs 28.82 crore through its channels CNN News18, News18 India and News18 UP Uttarakhand. The Zee Media group came second, with Rs 23.48 crore in ads on Zee News, WION and Zee Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand.
The RTI was filed in March this year by Lucknow-based journalist Umashankar Dube. The Adityanath government’s response divided the state’s ad expenditure on news channels into 42 “national TV news channels” and 15 “regional TV news channels”.
The response shows that Uttar Pradesh spent more on advertising local schemes than ad campaigns on Covid relief and awareness. One of these schemes was “Atmanirbhar Pradesh” – presumably a local offshoot of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” – that cost Rs 7.04 crore.
The miscellaneous campaigns include “Rising UP”, “4 years of UP government”, “Uttar Pradesh ki Vijay Gatha”, “Jan Jan ki Baat” and “Ek Din Vidhan Sabha ke Saath”, among others. These campaigns cornered 16 percent of the total ad expenditure: Rs 26.47 crore of the Rs 160.82 crore.
Rs 1.48 crore was spent on an ad campaign called “CM Appeal”, which is dated May 4, 2020 in the RTI. Navneet Sehgal, UP’s additional chief secretary of information, told Newslaundry that the campaign involved chief minister Yogi Adityanath asking citizens to follow Covid protocols and get vaccinated.
Sehgal did not comment further on this story.
The state government spent another Rs 6.1 crore on promoting the upcoming airport in Jewar in UP; Jal Jeevan Mission, a national scheme to provide drinking water to rural households; Mission Shakti, a programme on women’s safety; Mission Prerna, UP’s flagship project on “to improve the quality of education”; ODOP, which stands for the “One District One Product” scheme; and “Van Mahotsav Saptah”, a tree plantation drive.
Of the Rs 71.63 crore allocated to regional news channels, the ad spend on Covid falls to 2.5 percent, with only Rs 1.79 crore spent on the campaign. The expenditure doubled for campaigns on local schemes and programmes to 33.7 percent, though the share for “Atmanirbhar Bharat” fell to 57.8 percent.
On the other hand, the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” pie rose to 82.3 percent on national news channels, cornering Rs 73.4 crore of the total Rs 89.19 crore. The spend on Covid ad campaigns marginally increased to five percent of the total ads.