|Early Times Report|
Jammu, Nov 19: Despite having been sanctioned a whopping Rs 17 crore as the annual funds for issuance of advertisements to Jammu-based newspapers, the Information Department has spent mere around Rs four crore in the first eight months of the fiscal, hinting that over Rs ten crore may lapse due to the "conspiring laziness of the babus."
Even as the governments in other states across the country don't mind even to go out of the way to help local newspapers, Information department especially its Jammu wing headed by Joint Director, seems to want the local press starve though the winter capital region runs maximum number of newspapers in the restive state.
This "conspiracy" against the Jammu-based newspapers is apparently being done to favor three "influential" newspapers, which are in the "good books of some forces in the corridors of power and thus this Bander Baanth."
The local newspaper owners accused the Information department especially the Joint Director for Jammu, of being hell-bent to destroy the newspaper industry in the region, with Early Times being the prime target.
Laced with facts and figures, the aggrieved have come down heavily on the Information Department and also demanded intervention of Governor SP Malik.
Narrating their woeful tale of injustice, the newspapers owners said the J&K Information department was allocated Rs 34 crore budget for issuing advertisements in local newspapers for the year 2018. The amount included Rs 17 Cr each for newspapers published from Jammu and Srinagar.
To its credit, the Srinagar wing of the Information department has so far spent, and rightly so, Rs 10 cr of the Rs 17 cr it was allotted by the government in the budget for the current year.
It's believed that Srinagar newspapers received a fair amount of advertisement as per their circulation.
In Jammu, on the other hand, the Information department has spent just Rs 4 Cr of the Rs 17 Cr, which not only explains why most of the newspapers in Jammu are on the brink of closure but also reveals intentions of the Joint Director, Information department, towards the Jammu-based newspapers.
Notably, Jammu has more newspapers approved and registered with the Information department than Srinagar.
However, mere three "influential" dailies from Jammu receive 95% of the advertisements issued by the Information department every day.
"When the amount allocated for advertisement is not spent judiciously, it means the authorities wa
t only a few selected newspapers to mint fortunes while others should be put to death though starvation. Also, when the rest of the newspapers are not given advertisements, it leads to lapse of funds, the funds which had been allocated to the newspapers ignored by the Information officials," a newspaper owner told Early Times.
To its credit, the Srinagar wing of the Information department has so far spent, and rightly so, Rs 10 cr of the Rs 17 cr allotted by the government for current fiscal.
He said he was at loss to understand the rationale behind releasing advertisements to only three newspapers and ignoring other equally big and credible newspapers, like Early Times, and dozens of small newspapers.
The aggrieved newspaper owners also say that the Information department has, of late, adopted a strange method while releasing advertisements. If, for example, a particular department forwards an advertisement to the Information department and wants that it should be carried in colour in the newspapers, the Information officials release it in black and white. Likewise, if a particular department forwards an advertisement to the Information department with the direction that it should be carried in certain cm space, the Information officials slash or increase it size as per their wish. This tampering with the advertisements, according to the newspaper owners, is against the set norms.
"The Information department is just a nodal agency for receiving advertisements issued by different government departments and then forwarding them to the newspapers. The Information department officials are not authorised to tamper with the advertisements. The advertisements forwarded to the department have to be released to the newspapers as per the instructions of the issuing department," the newspaper owners say.
It goes without saying that hundreds of people work as reporters, editors, columnists, designers, runners, drivers, etc in newspapers like Early Times. In the absence of government advertisements, it would not be surprising if there is a major lay-off, leading to more unemployment in the state.
Since industrial sector in J&K is either non-existent or unorganised, unlike mega cities of the country like Delhi, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, where newspapers usually depend on the corporate sector for advertisements, the local newspapers here are totally dependant on the government for their survival.
"Hence, the Information department officials should explain why they are hell-bent on snatching the livelihood of hundreds of families in Jammu," the newspaper owners added adding "Is anybody listening?"