The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has constituted a 10-member committee under the chairmanship of eminent journalist and Prasar Bharati member Ashok Kumar Tandon to review the existing guidelines of the Journalist Welfare Scheme and recommend suitable changes in them.
The Ministry’s decision assumes significance in the light of several changes in the media eco-space, including the death of a large number of journalists due to Covid-19, and the widening of the definition of ‘working journalist’.
The scheme, which has been in existence for the last several years, needs to be future-oriented in the interest of journalists and its coverage has to be made broad-based.
With the enactment of the occupational, safety, health, and working conditions code 2020, the definition of a working journalist has been broadened to include journalists working in both traditional and digital media. In addition, possible parity between accredited and non-accredited journalists was considered necessary to enable all to receive welfare and benefits under the scheme.
The Ministry had taken proactive steps to give ex-gratia to families of journalists who died due to Covid-19. It has given assistance of Rs 5 lakh to each family in more than 100 cases.
The committee is expected to submit its report in two months. Its recommendations will help the government to formulate new guidelines for the benefit of journalists.
The committee headed by Tandon, includes Sachidananda Murthy, Local Editor of The Week; Shekhar Iyer, freelance journalist; Amitabh Sinha of News18; Shishir Kumar Sinha of Business Line; Ravinder Kumar, Special Correspondent of Zee News; Hitesh Shankar, Editor, Panchjanya; Smriti Kak Ramachandran of Hindustan Times; Amit Kumar of Times Now; Vasudha Venugopal of Economic Times and Kanchan Prasad, Additional DG, Press Information Bureau.