March 27, 2020

To,
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi,
Prime Minister’s Office South Block,
Raisina Hill New Delhi-110011
Phone No: +91-11-23012312
Fax: +91-11-23019545, 23016857

Dear Sir,

SUB: COVID19 – Coordinated Consistent Communication at various levels can amplify the efficiency and effectiveness of the pandemic response

In crises like what our nation is facing now, communication plays an extremely crucial role in the effectiveness and efficiency of response. You are an expert communicator yourself, and you would agree that what, how, and when we communicate brings about tremendous structure and coordination into the actions.

You, as our Prime Minister, have demonstrated stellar leadership and brought about cooperation and synchronicity in communicating this national disaster. The nationally televised address at 8 PM on March 21 and subsequently on March 24 and the declaration of a 21-day lockdown is a bold and commendable step to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

You would hence agree that at a bare minimum, today, there is an enormous need for communication with citizens to reduce their fears, anxiety, and uncertainty. We need to give our citizens clear and consistent updates and directions at various levels. Such coordinated multi-level communication would amplify the effectiveness and efficiency of administrative actions manifold. Such a communication mechanism also prevents gossip and rumors that are counter-productive in terms of crisis.

We are also seeing the exemplary field execution by the chief ministers of many states like Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Delhi, and West Bengal, to name a few. It seems like a relay race, and when our PM passed the baton, those CMs just took it and ran as fast as they could. The crack teams at various states are already doing some excellent work providing community services, policing for a large order, health services and protecting immigrant workers, amongst many many other things. They are indeed on a mission mode.

However, the citizenry is still bombarded with fake news and gossip and inaccurate and uncoordinated updates. Moreover, such unverified communication creates doubts, uncertainty, anxiety, panic, and misaligned responses from the ground. Much as You may have laid the ground rules against rumour mongering, nothing could be more effective as the direct coordinated, consistent communication (3C) at various levels.

In a vast nation like India, the scene of action is at the ward level, panchayat level, and this is where the ‘transfer and translation’ of information fails often. There may be many reasons, including vernacular, micro-realities, cultural uniqueness. Hence, the communication at the ward/ panchayat level needs to be hyper-local, and that would translate into clear micro-actions on the ground.

Towards this end, we should look at a coordinated communication mechanism across the country emanating from the center (where you as Prime Minister have already taken the leadership) to panchayat head/ sarpanch where each local leader communicates daily the following

  1. The situation update/ statistics
  2. Precise actions being taken
  3. Improvement/ deterioration in the situation
  4. Exactly expectation in the next 24 hours from people/ hyper-local administration
  5. Any other specific directions.

Such a system would ensure that the unbound energy in this country is aligned and responds and executes with laser focus for maximum effectiveness. Such leaders may do a simple 10-15-minute daily citizen briefing providing consistent, coordinated communication (3C) at various levels across the country.

An example would be to have (a) National Level by PM – 5 PM, followed by (b) State CMs – 8 PM followed by (c) Ward/ Panchayat level – 8 AM +1d.

There must be televised addresses as well as social media for PM/ CM addresses. The local representatives can do such on Facebook Live or Twitter Live or such.

I am sure your offices may already be contemplating such action and, in that case, would appreciate the earliest executions starting immediately.

The faster we do it, the better we can win this war against COVID-19, as a nation. I would appreciate it if your team can give a thought to this suggestion.

Jai Hind!
Sincerely,
Rajesh Soundararajan

Open Letter to PM Narendra Modi

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