The Mamata Banerjee government has issued a circular to all state government and government-aided libraries listing the newspapers that they should offer to readers.
Neither the main Bengali dailies nor any English newspapers are in the list.
No government fund will be spent on purchase of newspapers/dailies published or purported to be published by any political party as a measure to develop free thinking among the masses, reads the order signed by Special Secretary,Library Services and Mass Education,Rampada Biswas.
The newspapers that fit the Mamata governments criteria include recently launched newspapers,many of them with low circulation,who are not critical of the government or openly support it. Four editors of these papers have been elected to the Rajya Sabha on Trinamool Congress ticket.
According to the circular,the listed newspapers will help promote language and develop free thinking among the masses.
Officials of the Library Services Department admitted that this is the first instance of such a circular. The managing boards of libraries have so far been the final authority on deciding which newspapers and periodicals to offer.
The circular is applicable to all the 2,460 government-aided libraries,all the 12 government libraries and the seven libraries categorised as government-sponsored.
The newspapers that pass the test include Sambad Pratidin,Sakalbela,Dainik Statesman,Ekdin,Khabar 365 Din all Bengali vernaculars Hindi newspaper Sanmarg and Urdu newspapers Akhbar-e-Mashriq and Azad Hind. Sambad Pratidins two editors,Sanmarg editor Vivek Gupta and Akhbar-e-Mashriqs Nadimul Haque are now in the Rajya Sabha.
The leader of the Opposition in state assembly Surya Kanta Mishra said that even during the Rmergency,the government had not tried to monitor the readership of newspapers.
Congress MLA Asit Mitra demanded that the circular should be withdrawn immediately.