NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Tuesday stressed on the need to spread awareness among public about the COVID-19 pandemic through advertisements more frequently saying it could be done on the lines of ‘hum do hamare do’ campaign for family planning as it worked very well.
The high court said there is a need to keep on ‘bombarding’ valid information on public in relation to COVID-19 and directed the Centre and Delhi government to undertake publicising all relevant helpline numbers and information through audio, video and print medium continuously to educate people.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said there is lack of continuous and adequate publicity of most relevant and genuine information to the public at large and gave an instance that various helpline numbers have not been broadcast as frequently and efficiently as it should have been done.
Mere publication on a few days on one or more medium will not work, the court said, adding that ‘even if you are in war, war needs propaganda’.
Asserting that there is a need for being little pro-active and agile, the bench said the advertisement has to be a regular thing and a daily dose has to go out as it is like ‘a dose of medicine you have to give daily’ and it has to be in people’s memory.
“The amount of advertisement we used to see earlier on family planning ‘hum do hamare do’ it was there on DTC buses, radio, papers and everywhere it actually worked. We need something like that now for COVID-19. We need to keep on bombarding it on public,” the bench said, adding that even now if a person gets coronavirus, he or she does not know what to do so the helplines are required for them.
COVID helpline toll free is 1075, COVID Helpline Delhi is 011-22307145, Child helpline is 1098 and senior citizen helpline is 14567.
The court further said, “We direct the Centre and Delhi government to undertake publication of all relevant helpline numbers and information through all audio, video and print medium on a continuous basis as frequently as possible so as to educate people on facilities created by the state for testing and treatment of COVID-19 as well as other issues like mental health and issues arising in the society on account of the pandemic.”
It said Doordarshan and All India Radio are the mediums of Central government which should give advertisements there daily.
When one the Centre’s advocates said they have been broadcasting various programmes relating to COVID-19 on DD, the bench said it was talking about continuous bombardment of advertisements and helpline numbers.
Another Centre’s advocate said when Aarogya Setu application was launched, everyone was hounded with messages to download it and perhaps that kind of aggressive campaign is required now and assured the court that it would be done.
The counsel said the ringtone, which plays whenever a person makes a phone call, starts with warning that we need to be careful and take precautions and it also carries the helpline numbers.
The bench, however, said the ringtone should start directly with the helpline number and it is high time that the government should now hit the nail on the head and ‘cut out the preface and come to the main point’.
“It is like starting a writ petition with ‘most respectfully’ and nobody is reading it and even not interested. You need to be little pro-active in your approach. People are aware of COVID-19 protocol. It is high time that you update them with COVID-19 helpline number which is the most important part of the message. You have to be agile on your feet on this,” the bench said, adding that the government can get the message recorded and circulate.
It said a corner or column on a page could be dedicated for these helplines in the newspapers and remarked that the government was lagging behind on this aspect.
“In newspapers, one does not find these inserts on a daily basis. These things should be there in the papers every day. Fix a corner or column, may be on page 1 or page 3. Some column on a page should be dedicated to it daily so that people know where to go when they need it. People would be habituated. This is where you are lagging behind,” the bench said.
It added that helpline numbers don’t register in people’s mind immediately and they might forget so they should be publicised daily so that citizens know that even if they don’t need it today, they can find the helpline details at a particular place in the newspaper.
The court’s observation came after the amicus curiae said if government could consider publicising more the helplines and other data in newspapers, it would be helpful.
Delhi government’s counsel said they are advertising it and will do it more now.