New Delhi: The BJP-led Raghubar Das administration in Jharkhand has launched a scheme that will endow a grant of up to Rs 15,000 on print and TV journalists who cover the government’s welfare schemes and other initiatives.
The scheme, made public through a newspaper ad issued by Jharkhand’s Information and Public Relations Department Saturday, has drawn criticism from the opposition, with former CM Hemant Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) saying the Raghubar Das government had “breached all norms of ethics & moraliy (sic)”.
The ruling @BJP4Jharkhand govt , it's officials & our hon'ble CM @dasraghubar have breached all norms of ethics & moraliy. Open advrt by Govt publicity wing to journalists in #Jharkhand to write on #Vikas & earn money as fees. #PressCouncil & @MIB_India should take cognizance . https://t.co/OmK8I2Io54 pic.twitter.com/o133zZmHmQ
— Hemant Soren (@HemantSorenJMM) September 16, 2019
The initiative comes months before the state heads for assembly polls at the end of this year, alongside Haryana and Maharashtra. While the BJP has justified the scheme by saying that it was launched at the request of local journalists, the Ranchi Press Club denied making any such demand.
‘Made no such demand’
According to the advertisement, journalists were required to apply for the scheme with selected topics/subjects by 16 September.
A selection committee will now choose 30 journalists, who will get a month’s time to conduct reportage on the selected topics for print and electronic media.
Once they do so, they will be paid up to Rs 15,000 per article/TV clip.
Twenty-five selected articles will be published in a booklet to be compiled by the public relations department. The authors of these pieces will also get an honorarium of Rs 5,000.
Talking to ThePrint, Jharkhand BJP spokesperson Deendayal said the step was driven by demands of journalists.
“The government has not taken this initiative on its own. Several journalists had been asking for such a scheme for a long time,” Deendayal added. “If the journalists demand something from the government, then the government always tries to fulfil their demands.”
However, Ranchi Press Club general secretary Shambhunath denied that journalists had made any such demand.
The Ranchi Press Club, the largest body of journalists in the state, had made no such formal demand, he said, adding that he was unaware if the request had been made by individuals.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan Prasad called the timing of the decision “questionable”.
“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,” he added.
“Everybody is fully aware about the dismal condition of mediapersons under the BJP regime. The entire public is seeing how common journalists are being exploited and prosecuted, while owners of media channels are being pampered and managed,” he said.