The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled government in Jharkhand, led by Chief Minister Raghubar Das, has launched a new scheme, that promises to provide a grant of up to Rs. 15,000 to print and TV reporters, for covering the administration's welfare schemes and other initiatives.
The scheme was made public recently, by the Jharkhand government's Information and Public Relations Department through a newspaper advertisement.
Context: Jharkhand goes to polls later this year
To note, the decision to 'reward' journalists comes at a time when the state is looking to enter polls in a matter of months.
The Jharkhand government's desire to honor local journalism notwithstanding, the timing of this 'initiative' just ahead of the crucial Assembly elections is, at best, arguable.
Naturally, Opposition parties and leaders have come forward to criticize the scheme.
A selection committee to choose 30 journalists for reportage
As per the newspaper advertisement, participating journalists were required to apply for the scheme with their selected topics/subjects by September 16.
As the next step, a selection committee will choose 30 reporters, who shall be allotted one month's time to conduct reportage on the selected topics.
Subsequently, the reporters shall be paid up to Rs. 15,000 per article/TV clip.
25 selected articles to be published in a separate booklet
Apart from the said scheme, the government is also planning to set aside 25 selected articles and publish them in a separate booklet. The articles will be compiled by the Public Relations department. The authors of these articles shall get an honorarium of Rs. 5,000.
Several journalists had been asking for such a scheme: BJP
Despite denials from the state's press fraternity, the BJP administration maintains that the step was driven by demands of the journalists.
"The government hasn't taken this initiative on its own. Several journalists had been asking for such a scheme for a long time. If journalists demand something from government, then the government always tries to fulfill their demands," BJP spokesperson Deendayal toldThe Print.
No such formal demand has been made: Ranchi Press Club
However, Ranchi Press Club, the largest body of journalists in the state, has denied the government's claims. Its general secretary Shambhunath refused claims that journalists had made such formal demands, however admitted that he was unaware if such requests had been made by individuals.
The timing of the decision is quite questionable: Congress
Meanwhile, Congress has criticized the timing of the decision.
"If the BJP government takes any decision for the welfare of mediapersons, the Congress will extend full support. But the timing of these rewards just before the Assembly elections is quite questionable," said Congress spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan Prasad.
"Everybody is fully aware about the dismal condition of mediapersons under the BJP regime," he added.
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