Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The confession of just another presstitute

Recently, the Caravan magazine brought out an article detailing how almost 300 Madhya Pradesh based journalists cutting across every newspaper, channels and what not, were allotted plots in Bhopal by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in the early years of 2000.

The plot was not ‘gifted’ directly to each and every journalist, rather a cooperative was created that was headed by some journalists, who had more accessibility in the government than their fellow brothers, and later it was distributed ‘unequally’ among all the journalists. What Caravan did not mention was that the bigger journalists got themselves allotted more than one plot while many of them, who earn less than Rs 25000 per month and are on their last curve of their career, did not get even one plot. (I did not get any plot, nor I applied for).

Caravan also did not mention that even if these poor journalists would have got the plot, they would have to again seek government’s help to build a house on these plots. It would have been an even bigger eye opener if Caravan or for that any media houses had done a story on the salaries the journalists get.

Those who swear by ‘presstitutes’ and  prefer painting every journalists with the same brush  might not know that the salary of a journalist is barely enough to cover his household expense and I am not referring to the fresh graduates who are just out of college but those who have been slogging it out for 15 -20 years. The situation is worse for those who are working in Hindi newspaper.

Let me try to bring this out by an example. A Bhopal based bureau chief of a well known Hindi newspaper who is in his late 50s and had been in journalism for more than 20 years now was getting a salary of Rs 53000 when I last met him in January this year. His junior colleague, who was around 42, was getting Rs 42000.  Now keep yourself in the place of these two people and imagine the expenses that they have to incur to run their house, finance the study of their children and eventually arrange for the expense of their marriage.

Let me bring you to English media. Someone like me, who is in the middle position, will be fortunate enough if his annual package is Rs  6-7 lakhs. I have many friends who are not getting even that. By the time I step into my 40s, after giving 12-14 years of time into journalism, my only desire would be that my annual salary at least reaches upto Rs 10 lakhs.

Do keep in mind that media in India is a highly unregulated field, except two or three organizations, the concept of basic employee welfare, like annual appraisal, good hike, yearly paid leaves, bonuses, something that people working in other fields treat as their fundamental rights, does not exist for journalists working in Media.

Today, the recommendation of the 7th pay commission were cleared by the cabinet and the hike that the government employees will get is something that a journalist can only think  of and sometime wish for.

There is no pay commission for the journalists, only a holy albatross round the neck that they represent the esteemed ‘fourth estate’ and hence are prone to more public abuse and scrutiny.

Neither the government, this one included, nor the Maalik log are interested in increasing the salaries of journalists. When the recommendation of the Majithia pay commission for print media were to be executed, the Maalik log, showing great solidarity, pressed the best legal mind of the country into their service to make sure that the salaries of the ‘presstitutes’ remain abysmally low and despite the recommendations being finally upheld by the Supreme court in 2014, it has yet not been executed in almost 80 percent of the newspaper.

Forget the shouting and suave anchors and presenters you have been watching on the TV. Forget the stories, sometimes fictitious, mostly real that you read and hear about the personal wealth of these star reporters and editors. They represent a miniscule of the journalists fraternity because the rest of the journalists, who do not have the inclination and the guts to seek money through other means, they pass into oblivion with a small retirement send off party and if they are lucky enough, they can spend their remaining time in a small house that they might have been able to build with their modest income.

No Member of parliament, no minister and no PM has ever spoken about the abysmally low salaries the majority of journalists get. I wish the government would make it mandatory for every journalist to declare their income, for at least then there will be some sense of clarity among the readers and the viewers.

No high profile journalists does a show on why Majithia is not being implemented, Ravish and Goswami alike. Maybe they are not allowed to do so by the maalik log or maybe they do not need a pay hike. When I had asked the ever active 'Justice Katju" when he was the chairman of Press council of India that why did he not push for the implementation of Majithia and what did he do in his tenure as the PCI chairman except berating the same journalists whom he was expected to support, the man did the easiest thing, he blocked me on Twitter.

So next time you use the word bikau media and presstitutes, do say a prayer for a majority of the journalists because the only thing that they are paid their whole life is a salary that swings between modest and low.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

25 journalists staying in government provided bungalows in Delhi

Twenty five media-persons are presently staying in Central government provided type-4, type-5 and type-6 government flats in the national capital.

As per the response shared by the Directorate of Estates, Ministry of Urban Development, to an RTI query filed by me, all these flats are situated in posh areas like RK Puram, Pandara road, Bapa nagar,Kaka nagar,Hudco Place Extension and Andrews Ganj Extension.

Some of these bungalows were allotted to the journalists as far back as the 1970s and 1980s.

Officials in the Urban Development ministry said that the allotment of government flats to journalists are rare and is based on the discretion of the incumbent minister. “In Delhi, there is always a shortage of government accommodations for the government officials who have the first claim over such accommodations hence it is in rare cases that a government accommodation is given to a media person. Unless and until the concerned minister really wishes for the allotment of the flats to a media persons, the government flats are very rarely allotted to them”, an official with the directorate of estate said.

Interestingly, in December 2012, the Supreme Court in an order, had asked the government to make sure some of these journalists vacate the ‘illegally occupied government bungalows’ as they had overstayed their entitlement. The Supreme Court had given the order after the National Green Tribunal, which approached the Supreme Court, presenting its problem regarding non availability of a suitable accommodation for it to function from, after which the SC asked the government to act.

However, more than 4 years later, some of the journalists, who were required to vacate the government accommodation, still continue to stay in those flats.

Very few of the journalists who are staying in these accommodations are working for a mainstream publication.

One of them brings out a Hindi daily from Ghaziabad, while another journalist is working for a local news channel. A journalist from a south Indian magazine has been staying the flat for the past 13 years, another journalist of a Chennai based magazine ‘Junior Vikatan’ was allotted the flat in 2006. A journalist with "Spot films' too was given the flat in 2003. A reporter with ‘Amrit Sandhesh’ newspaper that is published by the family of Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, was allotted the flat in 2006. Similarly a representative of SUN TV was given the flat in 2006. One such flat is in the possession of a reporter from Amar Ujala newspaper. A reporter from Andhra Prabha, a Telugu newspaper, too was given the flat in 2006. A cameraman with ‘Asian Film TV’ was allotted the flat in 2003.

The demand from Gujarat...

Former Home Minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram, who is in the eye of storm for his role in the Ishrat Jahan case, might have admitted the role and influence of a Gujarat based Congress leader in the whole case.

Chidambaram, while quoting his interview that he gave to Hindu Business Line which appeared on 25, April,shared multiple tweets on his twitter account. 

The content of three of these tweet reads , “Although I have no recollection of seeing the first affidavit, let us presume that I did. Then came the report of Magistrate SP Tamang. This report caused an uproar & there was demand mainly from Gujarat that Government of India should clarify or dispel misinterpretation being placed on the First affidavit. This is why a Second, short affidavit was filed!”.

The reference to a ‘demand, mainly from Gujarat’ to effectively change the first affidavit, has led to strong speculations that the former Home Minister has unknowingly admitted that there was a strong demand from certain Congress circles to change the content of the first affidavit, which in essence stated that Ishrat Jahan was a Lashkar module, and that demand had come from a Gujarat based leader.

On 21 February, I did a story for The Sunday Guardian “Manmohan ministers tried to implicate Modi in Ishrat case”, in which I had written about how a top Congress leader from a western state, had written to the Prime Minister’s Office in the first week of September 2009, expressing dismay that because of the first affidavit the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi could not be framed in Ishrat’s encounter. The Congress leader was unhappy that the MHA’s affidavit had placed on record that Ishrat was a terrorist.

“Chidambaram, who is very articulate with his words and uses his every word very carefully, has clearly stated that the ‘demand’ to change the affidavit had come from Gujarat. Obviously it did not come from Modi or the BJP. Since he has used the word ‘demand’, it implies that it had come from someone who was very influential. Now, he might say that this ‘demand’ had come from the civil society or human right activists but we all know whom he is referring to”, an official who is familiar with the entire case, said. 


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