#Bihar: Is the timing suspect for the pension scheme for journalists?

#Bihar: Is the timing suspect for the pension scheme for journalists?

#Bihar: Is the timing suspect for the pension scheme for journalists?

Before Lok Sabha elections, Bihar government announces pension scheme for journalists


By Umesh Kr. Ray and Rohin Kumar

 

Before the election code of conduct kicks in ahead of the impending Lok Sabha elections, the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in Bihar is trying to lure the journalistic fraternity with a pension scheme.

Under the Bihar Patrakar Samman Yojana (BPSY), state-based journalists, aged at least 60, shall be eligible for a monthly pension of Rs 6,000. The scheme would cover both accredited and non-accredited journalists who have been in the profession for at least 20 years.


Although the scheme was announced way back in August 2015 yet it was not executed due to some “technical reasons”.


Earlier in 2010, the state government had formed Rajya Patrakar Bima Kosh to build a healthcare reserve fund for journalists but abandoned it four years later only to start Bihar Rajya Patrakar Bima Yojna. Under this insurance policy, beneficiaries are provided with a Rs 5 lakh health insurance and personal accidental claim.


According to the policy, journalists need to pay only 20% of the premium while the rest is borne by the state government. Around 500 journalists were insured under the policy in 2018.


Bihar has around 60 media houses but the government is yet to figure out how many will be benefitted under the pension scheme. State information and public relations officer Chandrashekar Singh said a detailed mechanism on the scheme is now being figured out and will be declared soon.


Journalists a happy lot


Welcoming the Bihar government’s move, senior journalist Dipak Misra pointed out that there is no social security for journalists in the state. “We have to face lot of hardships after retirement. Such a scheme should be welcomed.”


On the crucial question of whether the scheme is an attempt by the NDA government to influence the journalist community ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, he said, “Influencing journalists can be done in an ‘n’ number of ways. In the current scenario, media owners are unwilling to take on the government. If anything is influencing journalists, it is the media owners.”


Women journalists in the state have also welcomed the decision but with a slightly different take. Rajni Singh, chief copy editor, News18, said, “This is a welcome move but the fact is that very few women journalists are able to continue in the profession for 20 years”.


She estimates that only about 10 to 12 women journalists in the state can reap benefits from the scheme.


Bihar Working Journalist Association (BWJA) was the first one to demand such a pension scheme for scribes. “Pension has had been a long-standing demand of journalists. Journalists can be rendered jobless anytime. Already journalists in the state are working under harsh conditions. Pension scheme would be good assistance,” said Nivedita Jha, president, Bihar Working Journalist Association.


However, she is not satisfied with the paltry pension of Rs 6,000. “I think pension amount should have been at least Rs 10,000. We, anyway, welcome the present scheme as well,” Jha said.


Opposition smells a rat


Opposition party Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) has appreciated the journalists' pension scheme but at the same time also questioned the timing of its execution.


Senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwary alleged that the Nitish Kumar government already controls and manages media through advertisements. “Media institutions in the state are forced to fall in line with the government. This is nothing less than an undeclared state of emergency,” he said raising questions on the independence of journalists.


However, this is not the first time in Bihar that such a scheme has come into existence. During Lalu Prasad Yadav’s tenure in the 90s, senior state journalists were given a stipend of Rs 1,000. The scheme was discontinued later on.


Bihar is not the only government to have announced a pension scheme. In West Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government had also recently announced a pension plan for accredited journalists.


Journalists’ uncertainty our concern: JD(U)


Janata Dal (United) spokesman Niraj Kumar said, “Assisting journalists and working for their welfare is not influencing them. Media is the fourth pillar of our democracy and their uncertainties are our concern.” The JD(U) leader believes that the pension scheme to be implemented in Bihar should also serve as a model for other states.


BJP state vice president Vinay Singh said, “Journalists play a very crucial role in our democracy. They help in shaping our society and nation. Providing them pension is a welcome step.”

 

 

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