New Delhi: The Income Tax department is carrying out raids at multiple offices of media group Dainik Bhaskar.
The search operations are underway at Bhopal and Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Ahmedabad (Gujarat), and a few places in Maharashtra.
Sources in the IT department confirmed that the searches were linked to allegations of tax evasion but added that it “was early to divulge further details”.
“These searches are in connection with tax evasion,” a source in the IT department told ThePrint.
While there has been no official statement from the IT department, news agency PTI reported that the searches are being conducted at the offices as well as residences of the promoters.
ThePrint contacted Sudhir Agarwal, Managing Director of Dainik Bhaskar group, for a comment, via calls and messages, but there was no response until the time of publishing this story. The report will be updated once he responds.
However, a statement issued by the media group said the “government is scared of honest journalism.” It said the houses of several employees are also being raided by the IT department.
“Mobile phones of our employees are being seized and they aren’t allowed to go outside. IT team officials are saying this is a part of the process,” the statement read.
Opposition hits out at Modi govt
The Opposition leaders alleged the media group was raided because of its reporting on Covid “mismanagement” by the Modi government.
“Through its reporting Dainik Bhaskar has exposed the Modi regime’s monumental mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now paying the price. An Undeclared Emergency as Arun Shourie has said — this is a Modified Emergency,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted.
Through its reporting Dainik Bhaskar has exposed the Modi regime’s monumental mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now paying the price.
An Undeclared Emergency as Arun Shourie has said — this is a Modified Emergency. https://t.co/EVLHGisGTq
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) July 22, 2021
Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh called the raids an “attack on journalism”. He also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are using investigative agencies like the Income Tax department, Enforcement Directorate (ED), and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as weapons against the media. He said income tax officials “are present at half-a-dozen premises” of the media group, including at its office in Bhopal.
पत्रकारिता पर मोदीशाह का प्रहार!! मोदीशाह का एक मात्र हथियार IT ED CBI!
मुझे विश्वास है अग्रवाल बंधु डरेंगे नहीं।
दैनिक भास्कर के विभिन्न ठिकानों पर इनकम टैक्स इन्वेस्टिगेशन विंग की छापामार कार्रवाई शुरू…
प्रेस कॉन्प्लेक्स सहित आधा दर्जन स्थानों पर मौजूद है इनकम टैक्स की टीम
— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) July 22, 2021
The Dainik Bhaskar group published a series of articles on the scale of devastation and the massive undercounting of deaths in many states including Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan during the second wave of the Covid pandemic.
Several social media users tweeted images of the newspaper’s reports on undercounting of the Covid dead, saying the raids were a “result of true journalism”.
Income Tax raid on #DainikBhaskar
This is the result of true journalism. pic.twitter.com/GiUv3Hm6xG
— Tribal Army (@TribalArmy) July 22, 2021
Income Tax Department raids at Dainik Bhaskar group. How predictable.
Back in April-May 2021, the Hindi Newspaper had exposed the monumental mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Snooping, Stalking, Blackmailing & Horse Trading. pic.twitter.com/HDLs50jlay
— Advaid അദ്വൈത് (@Advaidism) July 22, 2021
I strongly support this news paper for their true journalism and saver of democracy . #dainikbhaskar pic.twitter.com/lHein13cZ7
— Arpit Mathuria (@ArpitMathuria) July 22, 2021
Dainik Bhaskar was founded by Ramesh Chandra Agarwal in 1958 in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Over the years, the group has expanded to 12 states, particularly in the Hindi heartland. It is the largest circulated daily in the country, with 65 editions.
Danik Bhaskar is owned by D.B. Corporation Private Limited with 100% control. D.B. Corporation Private Limited is a listed company whose 69.82% shares are with the promoters and 30.18% shares are with the public.
The group employs around 3,000 journalists across the country and also has a strong network of stringers.
Also read: Counting burning, buried, floating bodies: How Dainik Bhaskar led national coverage on Covid
Raids also at UP TV channel office
Meanwhile, raids are also being conducted at news channel Bharat Samachar’s office in Hazratganj in Lucknow, sources in the IT department said.
Search operations are also underway at the residences of Brajesh Misra, Editor-in-Chief of the channel, and state head Virendra Singh.
“The Income Tax team has been conducting raids here since morning, with the agenda of harassment. Our Editor-in-Chief Brajesh Misra has said that no matter the harassment, Bharat Samachar will always stand with the truth,” the channel said.
ThePrint reached Brajesh Misra for a comment, through calls and messages, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
(The report has been updated to add Dainik Bhaskar group’s statement and details on raids at TV channel Bharat Samachar in Lucknow.)
Also read: There’s a gap between govt data & reality of India’s Covid deaths. Local media is bridging it