GUWAHATI: The state government has been very keen and committed for the overall development and welfare of the journalists of the state. For the first time in the history of Assam, unique initiatives have been taken by the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) to ensure benefits of the journalist fraternity.
“Journalists make up the fourth estate and the government can only perform well if it continues to get proper support from the media fraternity. Thus, ensuring benefits of the journalists become essential in a democracy. They (journalists) take so much effort to bring important issues to light so it is our (government’s) duty to provide them with necessary support in their endeavour,” said Director of DIPR, Rajib Prakash Baruah, to G Plus.
A meeting was held on June 28, 2018 at the office of the Additional Chief Secretary, Information & Public Relations (I&PR) Department, Janata Bhavan with presence of officials from LICI, Guwahati Division and different journalists’ unions and associations regarding a new “Journalist Insurance Scheme.” The scheme was announced by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on December 23, 2017 and accordingly, finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma allotted funds for its implementation in his budget speech for the year 2018-19.
Further, the finance minister had allocated Rs 10 lakhs to Media Trust for the current financial year. A process has been initiated to hand over the amount to Media Trust within the on-going month of July.
The Assam government has also been organizing press tours to various regions under the scheme “Conducted Press Tour.” During 2016-17, a team of 18 rural media persons along with two officers visited Gujarat from 4th March to 14th March, 2017. During 2017-18, a team of 14 rural media persons from various districts of Assam visited Madhya Pradesh under the supervision of two officers from 24th November to 6th December, 2017.
This year, Conducted Press Tour to Rajasthan was flagged off by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on May 23 and a team of 20 rural media persons visited Rajasthan from May 24 to June 3, 2018. The journalists were provided with a platform to visit places of interests besides getting an exposure to meet and interact with the journalists, government officials, chief minister and other ministers of the state. They were also familiarised with the various development facets along with socio-cultural-economic and political know-how of the state.
The present government has taken a significant initiative and announced Media Fellowship for the working journalists who want to improve their professional skills and upgrade their knowledge in journalism. Under the scheme, financial support will be provided for their continuous improvement of professional skills, up-gradation of knowledge in journalism. In a meeting held on May 23 at Srimanta Sankaradev Kalakshetra, the chief minister formally distributed acceptance letters to 20 of the selected journalists. The first installment of Rs 20,000 was distributed to each of journalist. Every year, 20 fellowships worth Rs 50,000 will be awarded to each media person.
Earlier, the Assam government, under the scheme “one time ex-gratia to the next of the kin (NoK) of the deceased journalists,” gave one time ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakhs each to the next of kin of 31 journalists who lost their lives or are missing in various incidents of violence in the state. Chief Minister Sonowal formally distributed the grants on December 22, 2017 and also released Shraddhar Ekajoli - a collection of short biographical sketches of these journalists on the occasion.
The present government has also introduced “Republic Day Journalism Award” to honour one eminent journalist of the state annually for his/her outstanding contribution in the field of journalism. The awardee is given Rs 1 lakh during the state level function of Republic Day, i.e. 26th January. During 2017, the first award was conferred on noted journalist, Radhika Mohan Bhagawati. In 2018, the award was conferred on noted journalist, Kanak Sen Deka.
The state government has introduced Assam Pension Scheme for Journalist to provide retirement benefits of Rs 8,000 to the journalists working for more than 20 years in Assam on their retirement. Pension Authority Letters have been distributed to 20 retired journalists on February 5, 2018 by the media advisor to chief minister Hrishikesh Goswami.
Further, a welfare scheme for the media person entitled “Journalist Family Benefit Fund (JFBF)” to provide financial assistance to the family of the deceased journalists met with untimely death while on duty has also been announced and the government has already sanctioned Rs 100 lakhs for the purpose.
Under the “Journalists’ Medical Welfare Scheme,” one-time financial assistance is provided to accredited and recognized journalists of Assam for their medical treatment. This scheme also covers dependent family members of the journalists. Financial assistance has been extended to 31 journalists on 13 March, 2018. An amount of Rs 300 lakh has been kept in the SBI Dispur Branch as fixed deposit in the corpus fund of the scheme. At present an amount of Rs 21,98,823 is available as interest accrued from the corpus fund.
The present government also observes a state level function of the National Press Day in a befitting manner. During 2016-17, the day was observed at Sankaradev Kalakshetra, Guwahati on November 16, 2016 wherein editor of Amar Asom, Prasanta Rajguru, delivered the key note speech. During 2017-18, it was observed at Tezpur and eminent writer Dr Nagen Saikia delivered the key note speech. Six senior journalists from six districts were felicitated for their contribution towards journalism during 2016-17 and 2017-18.
A fortnightly publication named Raijor Batori has also been released by the present government with an all new look. The main objective of this magazine is to create awareness amongst the people by keeping them informed about the plans, policies, programmes and development schemes of the government. It carries the state's news, views and achievements. The aim of this magazine is to mobilise popular support from the general masses.