ASCI decides to stay away from misleading Bharat Nirman ads

Reacting to a barrage of complaints against the Bharat Nirman ads on Bills that have not yet been cleared by the Parliament, the Advertising Standards Council of India-ASCI, an industry watchdog, decided that it cannot rule on government and political advertisements

Remember the blitzkrieg of advertisements on the hawkers bill and the realty regulator? The first showed a hawker who refused to be cowed down by a policeman who tried to shoo him away. Instead, he said, he had an identity card that he seemed to suggest, gave him a license to hawk where he chose. The policeman immediately chose to patronise the hawker and was seen enjoying gol-gappas. Very touching. Except that the Bill to legalise hawking is yet to be cleared by both houses of Parliament (it has been cleared by only one) nor received Presidential assent or have rules framed for its implementation and notified in the national gazette. The advertisement creates the false impression that hawkers and squatters cannot be evicted by the police or the municipal corporations anymore. This is clearly false and mischievous, because the Bill provides for specially demarcated hawking zones in which they are to be rehabilitated.


Merely having a disclaimer to the advertisement in English, when it is clearly an election gimmick aimed at a specific economic segment, is brazenly misleading. As for the identity card that the hawker displays – where is the question of any such card until the Bill is passed and regulations framed? This is just a lie that claims delivery of benefits to people which are patently untrue.


The second advertisement seems aimed at the urban middleclass anger against pro-builder realty laws. See Bharat Nirman realty advertisement here: At the end of a decade in power, the government plans a Realty Regulator -- but it is in such a hurry to claim brownie points that it is already touting fake empowerment, with a disclaimer to say that the Bill has yet to be passed in parliament. This advertisement claimed to have settled the issue of how the size of a flat is measured – the carpet area v/s built up area debate. Again, it was false and misleading, because no Bill has been passed. We also know that the realty Bill has been delayed for decades because of powerful political interests. In fact, in most regional political parties, the public source of wealth of their leaders is through realty development, because they alone are best placed to run the gauntlet of rules and permissions that are required under multiple laws and ministries.


What is shocking is that the Bharat Nirman advertisements are issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), which expects private industry to follow strict rules with regard to misleading advertisements. Also, there could be significant amendments to the Bill during the process of Parliamentary discussion. How can the government be confident it will be cleared as introduced? Both the advertisements were hotly debated on social media. One question raised was how and why should government advertisements issued at taxpayers’ expense carry a photograph of the Congress party leader?


There is a similar absence of rules about all government advertisements including the ones issued by various ministries and public sector undertakings to announce new projects, policy initiatives, seminars or to commemorate the birth and death anniversaries of various leaders. We learn that dozens of complaints were filed with ASCI regarding the two misleading Bharat Nirman advertisements. Then, 11.34 pm on 26th September, everyone who complained against the advertisement received a standard email that said: “The current policy of ASCI is not to take complaints against government and political advertisements as ASCI is a self-regulatory industry body for commercial advertisement content. However, the ASCI Board plans to revisit this policy soon and will clarify its decision by making appropriate changes in its advertising code, if required. Meanwhile, your complaint against some of the Bharat Nirman ads has been forwarded to the TV content regulator, which is the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, for taking appropriate action”.

However, the message seems to have reached the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. It was soon evident that all the Bharat Nirman advertisements had been withdrawn, including the ones regarding the food security and land acquisition Bills, where the government had been making claims without any real benefits having reached people under these two acts. To that extent, even those advertisements were misleading, but they at least had the fig leaf of having been cleared by parliament. Anyway, good sense seems to have prevailed and all of a sudden, there is no Bharat Nirman on television anymore. Maybe some people in the Congress party remember what happened to the Indian Shining claims of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime.

1 decade ago
Vinasha Kale viparidha Budhi.
All this false tom toming by self praising Advertisements is not going to re elect this inept UPA Government to power again
Krishnaswami CVR
1 decade ago
Government is not above the law. when our beauracrats are going to learn that they are in national service not in government service.
Jaymin Panchal
1 decade ago
It seriously amazes and saddens how such regulatory body bends it self, and bends more rule just to the liking of certain politician or political party.
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