Netizens received disappointing news recently. The Northern Railway (Delhi division) shut down its Facebook page - started with much fanfare two years back - after facing a barrage of online complaints.
Though many travellers posted queries on the page related to train timings, berth availability, running positions etc., few ever got replies. Miffed, many posted critical posts, leading to Northern Railway ultimately logging off the popular site.
Northern Railways is not alone in its endeavour to reach out to the social-media savvy. Several government departments have launched their FB and Twitter accounts, with much publicity, in the past few years. The question remains, how many of them are actually useful? And if an account is finally shut down in the face of criticism, what was the point of launching it in the first place?
Sudhir Lakra, secretary, Safipur Ranhaula (Nangloi) Resident Welfare Association, has posted complaints on the South Delhi Municipal Corporation Facebook page several times, but has never got any redressal.
“Since the time the SDMC page came up, I must have posted up to two dozen complaints. These related to open manholes, garbage mismanagement, stray dog menace etc. I also put up pictures related to these problems along with the written complaints. However, till date, I have never got a reply, call or action on the complaints. So much for an FB page.”
He further informs Metrolife, “It is almost the same story with the Public Works Department FB page. I have had to post complaints on their account several times before my area’s problems like broken roads were finally solved. They are slightly better than SDMC since they give the complainant a reference number. So, if your complaint is not addressed, you can get back to them with the reference number.”
However, there are examples of efficiency and redressal in this area too. The Delhi Traffic Police FB page is hugely popular for giving regular updates on traffic jams, suggesting alternative routes, informing commuters about roads under repair etc.. People also post pictures of traffic violations, lax cops on duty, taking bribes etc., and action is taken accordingly.
Vineet Pahuja, an IT professional posted a picture of a vehicle illegally fitted with a beacon some time back. He says, “I was pleasantly surprised to see a prompt reply and the car number included in the list of challaned vehicles, which they put up on FB within a week.”
A spokesperson for the soon-to-be-launched Rapid Metro, Gurgaon, says, “The Rapid Metro hasn’t even started functioning as yet but our Facebook page has started receiving comments already. Some of them are critical, say, remarking on the traffic jams caused by the Metro construction, but one has to address them politely. A public forum will always attract negative comments. You cannot run away from them. Otherwise, one shouldn’t get into social media at all.”