Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu on Wednesday assured to table the pension scheme for working journalists in the next Assembly’s Budget Session after fruitful interaction with a delegation of the state media fraternity.
A 10-member delegation headed by Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ) president Amar Sangno along with Arunachal Press Club (APC) president Dodum Yangfo and Arunachal Electronic Media Association (AEMA) president Migom Toko had called on Khandu at his office in Itanagar on Wednesday afternoon and submitted a six-point memorandum including demand for implementation of pension scheme for the journalists.
During the discussion, APUWJ president Amar Sangno apprised the chief minister that till date, the state governments of Assam, Tripura, and Haryana have implemented a pension scheme for their journalists who have retired from their profession.
“We feel that the work that journalists do is essential for the functioning of a democracy and is at par with the services done with the day-to-day functioning of the state and country. It is only fair, under such circumstances, that journalists who have served the public should be rewarded after long years of service,” he said.
Also, acknowledging that the enactment of a Working Journalists Protection Act would ensure the safety of scribes, Khandu assured that his government will work on it to introduce the Act for the safety of the journalists in the state.
Sangno further informed that presently, Maharashtra is the only state in India where an Act to protect the rights of working journalists has been passed.
Considering the fact that implementation of Majithia Wage Board needs wider consultation involving the stakeholders, the state media bodies have, however, suggested the state government to come up with own state Wage Board to ensure a fair wage for the journalists keeping in view of the cost of living in the hilly state.
“More than 10 years since the formation of the Majithia Wage Board, and the Supreme Court ruling in favour of the recommendations made by the Board, majority of journalists under the Wage Board are yet to receive benefits,” Sangno added.
When reminded by media bodies that oft-repeated promise, accommodation for accredited journalists at government guesthouses has never materialised despite the fact that journalist who often travel in remote locations in the state where private accommodation options are limited often faces inconvenience, Khandu assured to issue notification on accommodation facilities for the accredited journalists in government accommodations at concessional rate.
Thanking the state government for partial modification of Information and Publicity policy which has enabled the electronic media to avail government advertisement through it officially, however, the media bodies said that the new provision is strictly against the existing policy compared to newspapers.
According to the new policy, to get advertisements for electronic/digital media, it has to attain administrative approval from the Secretary IPR which is not necessary for newspapers.
While recognizing that lack of clear cut advertisement policies for the electronic and digital (online) media houses have deprived the many state-based channels to get advertisement, the chief minister assured to introduce a revised and updated advertisement policy for electronic and digital media.
Realizing that journalists work in such conditions that they often have to park their vehicles many times every day for performing their duties and have to pay heavy parking fees, Khandu said that it will direct the Secretary IPR to write to the government and semi-government parties to exempt media persons from toll and parking taxes.
“A strong independent media is essential for the efficient functioning of our democracy. The welfare of journalists who are serving to strengthen our democracy will always be our concern. Thank you, journalist friends, for your kind presence and presenting your valuable suggestions in today’s pre-budget consultative meeting in preparation of our#ArunachalStateBudget2019,” Khandu later said on Facebook.