323 ads, nearly 160 pages to mark 5 anniversaries

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: There are 58 government advertisements amounting to 26¼ pages in 12 English newspapers today to mark the birth anniversary of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In contrast, there were 108 ads amounting to 48 pages to mark his grandson, Rajiv Gandhi‘s birthday in August.

All told, so far this year, between three death anniversaries (Nehru’s, Rajiv’s, Indira Gandhi‘s) and two birth anniversaries (Rajiv’s and Indira’s), various ministries of the Union government and Congress-ruled State governments have spent taxpayers’ money in buying 323 advertisements amounting to 158¼ published pages in the 12 surveyed newspapers.

The breakup of the Jawaharlal Nehru ads are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 11 Nehru ads amounting to 4½ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 3¾ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 24-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 2¼ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 2¾ broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2¼ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1 broadsheet page


The Economic Times: 30-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

Business Standard: 16-page issue; 2 ads amounting to 1 page

Financial Express: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ page

Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Among the advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, human resource development, micro small and medium enterprises, youth affairs and sports.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan and Delhi. Besides, there are ads of Nehru Yuva Kendra and the national book trust.0

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Jawaharlal Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv Gandhi birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Indira Gandhi: 64 ads, 32 pages; Vallabhbhai Patel: 9 ads, 3 pages


  1. Perhaps Mr. Sengupta should also do a tally of what Indian newspapers have done by way of serious coverage of Indian historical personages, including, of course, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi. From my own reading of the papers, coverage is virtually zero. What is the cost of that to the Indian taxpayer, and more pertinently, to the Indian political system?

  2. Law of Omerta

    @bhaskar, newspapers are not history books. they are not supposed to teach us about historical personages. they are only their to report and analyse current events. if you are interested in learning about historical personages, perhaps you should buy a few history books.

    1. Newspapers are not history books but journalism has rightly been called the first draft of history. In post-colonial India newspapers have a special responsibility to educate the public. The government advertising of former political leaders must be seen in the context of their failure to do so.

    2. Sam

      Completely agree with Mr. Bhaskar Menon.

      I’d like to add that the Hindu does a good job on this aspect – their supplement for kids (Young World etc.) often includes write-ups on Gandhiji, Nehruji and other historical leaders.

  3. I am amongst those who believe that the worst thing that happened to India since 1947 is the Nehru family and the Nehru Congress. More national resources have been spent in the name of this family or for this family than perhaps on everything else by the GoI and other govts led by the congress!

    1. I am no votary of dynastic politics and am nauseated by the strong sycophantic stream in the post-independence Congress. But having said that, we have been lucky to have a family with the political capacity to lead. If we must blame someone for the poverty of Indian politics, let’s look in the mirror.

      1. There is no need for anybody to prefix the statement ’that he is no votary of dynasty ‘. What follows can be understood perfectly by the readers themselves. I also strongly disagree with Bhaskar Menon on looking at the mirror. I do not know how much he is responsible for the poverty in India but I am not and the billion impoverished/illiterate people are not enjoying their plight as Menon would have us believe ! We have reached such lows that taking cue from the Nehru family and its family jestors, even demagogues like Mayavati have started splurging public money on personal memorials! And even when the Congis claim that the right to food law is the most cherished by it high command, they have put it on the back burner becoz they do not have the Rs 1 lakh crores needed to implement it! And between Raja and few clerks they have siphoned off almost 2 lakh crores in less time than it takes to say 2G spectrum scam! It is truly said men understand the vastness of space better than the emptiness of the desert surrounding them!

      2. Mr. Ravindran might not think he is responsible for the state of affairs in India, but the educated Middle Class, of which he is presumably a member, is undeniably culpable. To stand on the sidelines and take cheap potshots at the Nehru-Gandhi family does nothing but afford the writer some temporary relief comparable to the effect of activity diplomatically described as self-abuse. They would not be tyrants were we not underlings (to paraphrase Cassius).

  4. Of course we know that, thanks to the Nehrus, this country is a sycophant’s paradise. Mr Bhaskar Menon may have his own reasons to blame victims and exonerate perpetuators of crimes. I shall have no arguments with people having such warped mindsets. But as far as the middle class in India is concerned it is fact that they are the most hard working of all people in this country and getting the least in return!

    1. My point is that the Indian middle class is not the victim. People get the government they deserve.

  5. Sam

    While some of the commentators attribute ‘Nehru-Gandhi-Dynasty’ sycophancy to Mayawati building statues, they don’t like to draw out attention to their poster boy Mr. Narendra Modi spending Rs. 1200+ crore on a giant statue of the original iron man of India. What’s the difference between him glorifying his icon and Ms. Mayawati glorifying hers (Kanshi Ram, Dr. Ambedkar etc.)?

    I don’t like Mayawati or Modi. Though I understand their political need for symbolism through such activities. I just wish they were smarter and did it like the Congress – the money spent on ads atleast benefit the media industry, and thus the nation. But then again, if they were smarter, they would be running this country now … 🙂


    As for Nehru, everybody knows his contribution to our nation’s freedom struggle and post-independence rebuilding of India as we know it now.

    And his impeccable integrity. (After Nehru’s father passed away, the Birlas offered him a monthly stipend ‘to maintain the rich lifestyle he must be used to’, which he declined).

    Notice how, many of these commentators here and else where blame Nehru for the ‘poverty of the billion Indians’? Probe a little deeper, and ask them to explain and they well mention his ‘flawed’ economic policies of anti-capitalism, ‘license raj’, ‘closed economy’ and government owned companies.

    (The right-wing in India often have leaned towards capitalism).

    When India became independent, the British had destroyed our industries to such a level that we had to depend on import from foreign countries for nearly everything.

    Did you know that our nation, that is now planning to launch a mission to the moon didn’t even have the technology / industry to manufacture a safety pin when it became independent?

    Nehru’s ‘protectionist’ policy allowed us to focus on science and technology and build our indigenous industries to such a level that they can today compete with anyone in the world. It is because of the foundation laid by Nehru’s congress government that India is today a very confident player in the defence, nuclear industry and various other industries.

    And remember, his government had to do all this while facing many hurdles that most of can’t even relate to today, and take for granted. Looking at where we are today, I think he did a fantastic job of balancing the nations resources and its needs.

  6. Trust the perverts to write things like ‘the money spent on ads atleast benefit the media industry, and thus the nation’ implying that the money spent on statutes doesn’t benefit anybody!

    Yes, if the author is to be believed we had to import almost everything following ‘independence’ but we know that Nehru used to get even his dress from the UK and we are ignorant about how the rest of India clothed itself.

    And I also meant that even the cost of statutes goes to benefit a lot of artisans! Coming to advts by the govt, isn’t it blatant bribing with impunity? I won’t waste time trying to discuss the harm of universal adult suffrage or the non-prescription of any qualification or quality for elected representatives.

    1. Sam

      I don’t blame your ignorance.

      When I said ‘the money spent on ads at least benefit the media industry’, I was not making up or imagining things. Most indians don’t realize how much the media outlets (especially newspapers) depend on government advertising.

      The DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity) annual report (2010-11) states that they alone released 12,522 newspapers ads. Here’s some excerpt from the report that emphasises how much they do for the newspaper industry:

      “The [advertising] eligibility criteria has been reduced to 18 months from 36 months.”

      “To provide special encouragements to newspapers in languages like Bodo, Kashmiri, Khasi, Konkani, Maithili, Manipuri, Mizo, Nepali, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Urdu and tribal languages / dialects and newspapers published in J&K, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and North Eastern States [advertising] eligibility is reduced to 6 months.”

      “Out of the total value of advertisements released by DAVP 15% goes to small newspapers, 35% to medium newspapers and 50% goes to big category of newspapers.”


      “Yes, if the author is to be believed we had to import almost everything following ‘independence’” …

      The ‘author’ doesn’t have to be blindly believed – you can verify this. Oh wait, I forgot – in the lala land that you guys live in, our current historians are all corrupt commies and the history books are completely distorted and only the Sangh parivar and the BJP know India’s TRUE history.

      … Nehru used to get even his dress from the UK …

      You forgot to write that that he was educated in the UK and used to live a very luxurious life with many servants, that his fathers used to throw parties that would even put the british to shame, that Nehru’s father was a very successful and well to do lawyer. That Mahatma Gandhi too was educated in the UK.

      And also add that they did all this while millions of indians were starving.

      You are mistaken if you think that those who believe in them are in any way going to be embarrassed by their former wealth or lifestyle that they were born into.

      In fact, if you look at the old congress leaders, you will find that they were all very rich.

      It is to the credit of both the Mahatma and these leaders wise enough to understand him that they used their wealth for the nations freedom, even eschewing a luxurious life during the satyagraha movement, and ultimately accepting mahatma’s philosophy that the focus of the country shouldn’t be on the needs of the rich but the poor.

      It is the strength of our country’s rich heritage (that the Mahatma made them realize and accept) that convinced these rich people that the nations growth wasn’t in the growth of the rich or other select group of people.

      Why do you think India became an inclusive country where anyone can vote, despite the fact that the ‘developed, democracies’ chose to only grant the right to vote to a select few?



      Ok, so you want to enlarge the scope of the debate from ‘this ad is dynastic-sycophancy’ to ‘all government advertising is bad’ …

      Coming to advts by the govt, isn’t it blatant bribing with impunity?

      No it isn’t.

      1. Advertising is a legitimate medium to create more political awareness.

      2. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, it is a part of the necessary checks and balances to reduce the influence of private business / individuals on the media.


      I won’t waste time trying to discuss the harm of universal adult suffrage …

      Yes, I am sure it is harmful to your peace of mind to consider everyone your equal when you know for a fact that you and the certain group of people you hang out with are clearly better and know best.

  7. Any reader can make out who is ignorant and who is talking real. We know the kind of advts being published at tax payers’ cost (the very starting point of all this discussion!) and the vote bank politics (not universal franchise as it is touted to be) prevailing today. Of course I am in a better position than the majority in all respects but if OWS is about 1 pc cornering all that is due to 99 pc, here it is 0.00001 pc cornering everything that due to the rest. And I do not belong to this 0.00001 pc. Now you can go ahead and brand my arguments as arising from jealousy of this 0.00001 pc. If that be so, so be it!

    1. Sam

      We know the kind of advts being published at tax payers’ cost (the very starting point of all this discussion!) …

      Mayawati and Narendra Modi are doing the same thing that the UPA is doing – spending tax payers money for political symbolism.

      Is it legally allowed? Yes
      Should it be allowed? That’s debatable.

      We can continue if you are interested in discussing that.


      The debate on universal franchise:

      … vote bank politics (not universal franchise as it is touted to be) prevailing today.

      “Central to the idea of a democracy is that each person is given an equal voice in deciding the outcome of an election. The right to vote is called suffrage. Most modern democracies allow the entire adult population to vote …”
      – (Encyclopedia Britannica)

      In India, thanks to the leaders of the Congress, the indian constitution adopted universal adult suffrage, meaning that every indian citizen, who is an adult, has the right to vote irrespective of their gender, religion, caste, financial status or race.

      (Of course, this greatly angered many right wingers who wanted this right to be given only to the well to do, of upper castes of a certain religion and treat the rest as second class citizens).

      Every indian today still has that right. So you are being disingenuous in trying to redefine it to mean something else. Otherwise, be more specific.

  8. Universal adult suffrage would have been good if only capacity building for such tool had preceded it or at least followed in earnest after it. You just don’t give a person a sewing machine and declare him to be a tailor!

    As far as your statements about Modi and Mayavati are concerned it is not only them but every govt does it. I have collected data pertaining to the LDF govt’s period in Kerala and I have no doubt that it has been made out to be a bonafide way of bribing the media. And the contents have been trash, no doubt about that too!

    I am stopping my arguments here becoz I am amoung those who are convinced that the worst thing that happened to India post 15 Aug 1947 has been the Nehru family and its family congress and you seem to be a great admirer of these fraudsters. We shall never agree with each other and hence there is no need to waste time either.

    1. I was hoping for a better resolution to the disagreements that have surfaced. None of us can have the luxury of dismissing the Gandhi-Nehru family as you have done. That is because of the general bleakness of a political scene dominated by corrupt politicians without vision. Look at what has happened between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Or the bloody politics of Gujarat. The reason the Nehru-Gandhi family has dominated is in part because it represents a different order of politics in India, something forward looking and hopeful that no one else stands for(except perhaps Nitish in Bihar, but he is relatively untried).

      1. Sam

        I was hoping for a better resolution to the disagreements that have surfaced …

        In a civil debate with someone who has similar ideologies we can expect some kind of resolution.

        (For example, both of us admire the Mahatma, and if we had a discussion on him, both of us would be richer from the experience, even if we didn’t completely agree with each other.)

        Look at what happens in the Parliament – Swashma Swaraj is on record telling the media that the BJP party leaders meet everyday, before every parliamentary session, and ‘debate’ whether to allow the parliament to function that day.

        Underlying these actions is their ideological belief system that really doesn’t respect our current constitution and model of governance, and so they don’t miss any opportunity to put down either.

        Anyway, the point is, however logical and / or factual your reasoning are, you would be wasting your time trying to convince Mr. Ravindran (or his buddies) about something that doesn’t conform to their ideological belief system.

        In such cases, the only thing to do is to point out where he doesn’t make sense or point out something he missed, not to convince or convert him, but for the sake of other readers who might genuinely be not sure or aware about the ‘other side of the coin’.

        (God, I sound preachy; I need a break from my ego … !)

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