The bare facts—1,943 kilometres of India’s border with Pakistan are flood-lit, and the ministry of home affairs used a picture of Spain’s border with Morocco to depict this in its annual report. If only the ministry official in charge had thought of adding the disclaimer “for representational purposes only”, Twitter wouldn’t have so near-completely ignored the fact that we now have well-lit borders, making them that much more difficult to jump or stray across. But, there is no fencing out the mocking that has erupted. Stung, the government has ordered an inquiry, though what that will achieve is unclear. Across organisations—and there is no reason why a Union ministry should be any different—junior personnel are more likely to be the ones hunting for a picture to match the text in a document, and at the eleventh hour. Ripe for errors to creep in. Even then, a senior official vetting the contents should have been par for the course; sadly, it is hindsight that is 20-20. There was a time when the ministry could have been thorough, and it has passed. The matter should be left at that.
The government must, however, avoid such embarrassment in the future. This is not the first instance of callous use of images. In 2010, a government ad against female foeticide featuring Kapil Dev and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan—to drive home the point that these achievers would not have existed if their mothers had been killed in the womb—also featured Pakistan’s former chief of Air Force, Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed. Not to say Ahmed’s was a lesser achievement, but the optics of a GoI ad featuring a Pakistani martial chief aren’t exactly great. The same year, the Gujarat government put ads in newspapers in Bihar, on its work with minorities—only, it featured a picture of Muslim girls in a computer training centre in Uttar Pradesh. The internet is peppered with reverse image search services—to check for provenance—from Google’s Search by Image to TinEye. The government should know better than to embarrass itself.