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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Online forums play brand ambassadors of Indian defence

A screen-shot of the Indian Army Fans' FB page. It has over 15 lakh followers.

By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: It's raining pages on Indian defence. And, their numbers are rising every day on the virtual world. While all the three major wings of Services have their own websites for publicity, what seems to be overtaking these official online missions are the ones being promoted by individuals and groups, who romance the armed forces. Some pages engage the visitors in serious debates, while there are many purely jingoistic in nature.
The Indian Army has maximum number of FB pages followed by the Indian Air Force and the Navy. But, the IAF seems to be having an upper hand with many pages individually propagating its assets, including the Sukhois, the MiGs and even the Tejas. The recent spate of scams and accidents that hit Indian defence have turned some of these pages into fertile grounds to vent out their anger against the establishment. 
Responding to Express' email queries from Philadelphia, Jagan Pillarisetti one of the promoters of Bharat-Rakshak.com, a top-rated website that discusses India's defence programmes threadbare, says that the growing number of forums act as a meeting ground for the common-minded people. "They also help in people getting easy access to information and images. Some forums have evolved into highly specialised and research focused groups. A single question would bring up many supporting answers," says Jagan, who has authored many books on the IAF.
On the number of defence pages mushrooming on the FB, Jagan feels that it has added a new dimension to knowledge-sharing. "They are providing an instant fix to people and enable them to discuss the technicalities with fellow enthusiasts. The only issue with these FB pages are that, their formats doesn't allow space for a serious discussion. The posts tend to get lost and searching for them is a pain. Also, the noise and signal ratio is too high," says Jagan.
According to Krish Yadav, one of the admins of Indian Army Fans, a popular FB page with over 15 lakh 'Likes', it is an emotional mission running the page. "We depend on information from our friends in the Indian Army and media. Most visitors get emotionally connected with us and over the years we have become a one-stop window for curious followers of not just Indian Army, but other forces as well. We have taken up many initiatives to inspire youngsters to join the Indian Army, in addition to being an a vibrant voice of the forces in spearing various recruitment drives," says Yadav, who operates out of Delhi.
While the Services want their men to stay away from various online interactive forums sighting security reasons, the Indian Army has an official page on FB (Indianarmy.adgpi), which disseminates information periodically. "It has helped us to read the pulse of people, which wasn't the case before. Earlier, we had to depend on our internal mechanisms and also media reports for feedback. Our FB mission has been encouraging so far," says an official, attached to the media wing of the Indian Army.
Interestingly, there are some pages being operated discreetly by those serving in the armed forces. A Special Forces (SF) operative, currently posted in a sensitive area tells Express (via a FB message) that he started the page to inspire fellow soldiers. "We (SF) are the unsung heroes of the armed forces and the recently-launched page is purely to inspire fellow buddies. We don't let out any sensitive information and take absolute care while posting photographs, so that the no background details are given out," says the SF operative.
Copyright@The New Indian Express

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