The Opposition has criticised a move by Jharkhand government to seek “story ideas” from journalists on the government’s “labhpradat”, or beneficial, schemes and the announcement to pay them Rs 15,000 each in case they are “selected”.
The controversy comes months before the state goes to the Assembly polls.
While Leader of Opposition in state Assembly Hemant Soren, in a tweet, urged the Press Council and the I&B Ministry to “take cognizance” of the issue, a top officer of the government’s public relations department said that the idea is to “do an independent impact analysis on different schemes” of the government.
An advertisement issued in various newspapers by the Information and Public Relations Department (IPRD) of Jharkhand government states that 30 selected journalists — from print and electronic media — will be paid Rs 15,000 each and 25 of these articles will be part of a book to be published by IPRD. For this, the journalists will be paid Rs 5,000 each as “samman rashi (honorarium)”, the advertisement states.
The last date for selection was September 17, but according to officials the date seeking entries has been extended.
Asked if one can be critical of the government or it is only about “positive news” on the government’s schemes, an IPRD official said, “Sarkar ki positive news chhapwaane ke baare mein hai (it is to publish positive news about the government).”
One advertisement, titled “Vartaman sarkar ki yojnayon se sambandhit patrakaron hetu aalekh prakahsan (publication of articles by journalists related to current government schemes)”, stated: “Applications are invited from interested journalists to write on various beneficial schemes of the government. Thirty selected journalists will be given Rs 15000 each on selection committee’s recommendation after the publication of the article. Of these, 25 articles will be selected for a book by IPRD; they will be given Rs 5,000 each [translated from Hindi].”
Soren tweeted that the BJP government in the state, its officials and Chief Minister Raghubar Das have “breached all norms of ethics & moraliy” by issuing “open advrt [advertisement]” and inviting journalists to “write on Vikas & earn money as fees”.
Deputy Director, Public Relations Department, Ajay Nath Jha told The Indian Express that the Soren government had, in fact, started this exercise in 2013 and a programme was held on October 2 that year to felicitate journalists.
Calling the present move an exercise “to promote research exploration”, Jha, asked whether it was done to draw ‘positive news’, said, “What does one mean by positive news? The idea is to do an independent impact analysis on different schemes…. ”