A Dilemma and the Decision

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

I was in a dilemma, because of personal reservation, when a registered body of Orissan Journalists styled National Journalists Welfare Board invited me to accept a pension it is to introduce on International Press Day, 2012 in recognition of lifelong contribution to journalism.

The NJWB is neither recognized by any national organization of journalists nor has any official status to grant any senior journalist any pension. Within the prevalent frame of journalists’ welfare, its signature is not authentic on the basis of any law relevant to the journalists. This was the cause of dilemma.

The State government has a ‘Working Journalists’ Welfare Fund’. When I was the Secretary of Orissa Union of Journalists, on demands of OUJ, the then Information Minister Sarat Kumar Kar had constituted this fund. As the matter hit the proposed agenda before the Cabinet, the Law Minister – himself a lawyer – took the cue and a ‘Welfare Fund’ for the lawyers was immediately put on the anvil. The later took the shape of a law whereas the former got the shape of an executive resolution.

Both the journalists and the lawyers are professionals in genre and serve the two pillars of democracy – the Press and the Judiciary – respectively, to set right the direction of democracy often derailed by the other two pillars – Legislative and Executive.

These two pillars – Legislative and Executive – that often derail democracy, are well fueled with pension provisions.But the real propellers of the rest two pillars that save democracy from derailment are left to their fates in our system. Hence, it was essential to have state funding for welfare funds for both the journalists and the lawyers.

But, sadly, Orissa Government discriminated between the journalists and the lawyers in the constitution of their respective Welfare Funds. And, consequently, the Working Journalists Welfare Fund is lying defunct.

With the Trade Unions of journalists gone haywire under corporate conspiracies, in course of time, Media Unity for Freedom of Press (MUFP), which is the latest evolution of media brotherhood beyond the boundaries of Trade Unions in Orissa, has been stressing upon activation of the State Fund for journalists through radical amendment of the Working Journalists Welfare Fund Rules to the extent of encompassing both the employed and self-employed media persons, while giving it a regular status of Law with a regular flow to its corpus from revenue of the media houses that fetch advertisements from Orissa, with matching Grants from the State.

But, the Government is not for the welfare of the journalists.

Within the last one year, the MUFP has organized funds for treatment of journalists hospitalized for metabolic diseases and for traumas caused by police atrocities, corporate assaults, attacks by exposed criminals and on-duty accidents.

Rajat Dash, Sub-Editor, Suryaprava; Jagannath Bastia, Puri Correspondent of The Samaja; Laxmidhar Mohapatra, Camera person of MBC TV; C.Ratnam, Paralakhemundi representative of EENADU are beneficiaries of MUFP contributions. Whereas its contributions, though of immense timely help to Pabitra Mohan Khuntia, Vidual Editor of STV and senior Journalist of OTV Pitabas Panda could not save their lives, MUFP derived utmost satisfaction from having organized life saving funds for Ansh, son of Kanak TV Vidual Editor Sudarshan Palai. Though the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund was invoked by MUFP presidium for Ansh to a limited extent, it was deeply felt that it could have been better if the State Fund for Working Journalists could have been functional with expanded scope and adequate provisions, in all the above cases. We have tried our best to educate the Government in this regard; but in vain.

Against this backdrop, even though NJWB is not nationally or officially recognized, its perseverance to fill up the gap, despite initial reservations in the world of Orissan media, seems to be an eye-opener endeavor to which media persons, adherent to journalistic norms, may not have any abhorrence.

Therefore, I decide to accept the offer as a symbol of my appreciation for attempts of our younger friends, who through their perseverance have shown the Government that the journalists by their own endeavor can promote welfare provisions for members of their fraternity.

One may hope that the NJWB action would wake up the Government to the occasion and make it conscious of its basic responsibility towards the sentinels of democracy.

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