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Journalists protest govt indifference over genuine demands

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OST Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Dec 17 :

Working journalists staged a demonstration in the assembly on Monday to protest the delay  in addressing their genuine demands.

They had submitted their 7-point charter of demands to the chief minister well ahead of the winter session.

The scribes sat on a protest dharna under Utkalmani Gopabandhu’s statue even as the assembly was unceremoniously adjourned sine die on Monday.

They said the government was not at all serious about  addressing  several long-standing issues and problems faced by them.

Working journalists in a meeting at Indira Park
Working journalists in a meeting at Indira Park

The journalists’ demands include health insurance, pension after attaining age of 58, government accommodation in the state capital, simplification of norms of the Journalist Welfare Fund, concession in government buses and accreditation to all working journalists.

The Journalists had submitted a seven-point charter of demands to the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on November 27  after which the government  has taken a week’s time to decide on it.  Later it sought time for another week to consider their demands.

The issue was also raised in the state Assembly and the members cutting across party lines had demanded that the genuine demands of the journalists should be met.

After this the Chair had also directed the Information and Public Relations Minister Arun Sahu to give a statement in the house.

All that the Information and Public Relations Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo said in his statement in the House on Tuesday, was that the government was considering the journalists’ demands ‘sympathetically’.

Although the minister said the government would take steps for the welfare of journalists after the committee headed by Chief Secretary submits it report, it failed to satisfy the journalists.

Sahoo said the high-level committee constituted to look into the journalits’ demands was of the opinion that the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1995, need to be amended so that journalists who have not got due recognition by the government so far are benefited.

The agitating journalists also said they will not hold any further talks with  the government and take to agitation if their demands are not met soon.

It may be noted here that the BJD government has done precious little over the last 13 years to ensure the journalists in the state work with a sense of dignity and security. Several committees that deal with the basic facilities for the working journalists are either not in place or completely paralysed. It had also failed to take action against those who had assaulted or victimised journalists for exposing the truth.

Many see this as a tactic to keep the journalists at the mercy of the government.

” What else can you expect from a government which is headed by a person who has all these years got away with delivering one-liners that don’t make much sense to the waiting TV crews at the state secretariat every day ? Has he ever addressed a press conference ? ” asked a senior scribe.

Another senior journalist told OST , “The government has taken things for granted because it thinks it has the owners and editors of local news papers and channels in its pocket. That explains why it cares two hoots about what their ’employees’ say”.

However, some believe that the state government will, sooner than later, come up with sops for the scribes before the 2014 elections because it realises the journalists working in the field could cause problems for the ‘walk-over’ it is dreaming of.