The government’s decision to amend the Journalists Welfare Scheme to offer better amenities to journalists has evoked mixed reactions from journalist fraternity. They wanted the government to improve basic working condition of journalists first before making announcements pertaining to their welfare. The government has failed to provide social security schemes to journalists and most of the policies announced for their welfare remains restricted on paper. They added that red-tapism comes as a biggest hurdle in availing all types of compensation benefits for journalists. Many of them expressed their concern about rising attacks on journalists across the nation and stated that the government has not taken initiative to curb these incidents.
Independent Journalist Kanchan Srivastava said that the compensation amount is inadequate though, considering the cost of living of a middle class family residing in urban and rural areas. She said, “The compensation scheme has been in existence since past couple of years but I’m not sure how many slain scribes’ families have actually availed the benefit. In case of journalists, who are killed on line of duty, the woes are more; families are often unaware of the schemes and also too scared to approach the authorities to seek their rights.”
When asked about the ineffective implementation of the law to curb attack on journalists she said, “Police action in most such cases remains elusive as people in power are often involved in attacks.”
Since 2015, as many as 142 attacks against journalists have been registered in the country, according to the latest data available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). As many as 70 journalists were killed in India between 1992 and 2016. Often the accused roam scot free after committing the crime as justice is denied to the victim.
Unmesh Gujarati, Resident Editor of Dainik Dabang Dunia termed that the amendments made by the government in Journalist Welfare Scheme as eyewash and said that they must fulfil the basic requirements of every journalist. He said, “60 to 70 per cent journalists working with renowned media companies don’t receive their salaries on time and though labour laws exist for the welfare of employees but the government turns a blind eye towards it.”
“As per a RTI application, it was revealed that some journalists have been allocated three houses instead of one under journalists housing scheme but the government has failed to take action against them. Press Club was started with an intention to enable journalists to discuss about important topics pertaining to nation’s interest but it has lost its credibility and become a den of alcohol,” he added.
The amendments in Journalists Welfare Scheme are made as per provisions of Working Journalist and other Newspaper Employees (Condition of service) and Miscellaneous Provision Act 1955. As per the provision of the law, if a journalist dies or he becomes handicapped then his kin will receive 5 lakh as compensation amount. Journalists will also receive Rs 5 lakh for seeking medical treatment. Even Editors, Sub Editors, Reporters, Photographers, Cameraman, Photo Journalists and Freelance Journalists will receive benefit under the scheme. For availing these benefits, a candidate should have worked in the capacity of journalist for 5 years.
Hariprasad Sadanandan, Staff Writer at Cricbuzz lauded the initiative taken by the government to provide better amenities to journalists. He said, “Journalism is one of the thankless professions in our country and it’s really nice to see us getting recognition. This step offers us and our families more security and stability.”
Soumya Chatterjee, Senior Staff Writer employed with The News Minute said, “This is a good step but we have to see how it works in future. Awareness about the hardships faced by journalists is very less in our society.”
Even though the Maharashtra government had passed the Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property), Act, 2017 but they have failed to effectively implement it. The law remains restricted on paper as no action is taken against the accused responsible for attacking journalists.