In the past, such ‘favors’ have attracted the criticism for ‘unfair’ allotment process that has benefitted the cronies of the government.

A lot of times, the states’ roll-out of the benefit schemes favoring the journalists, have come under scrutiny and drawn the flak after finding actually ‘an undue, irrational’ favor to the beneficiaries, intended to serve the political purpose. Such examples further affirm the unacceptable relationship between political parties and Indian Media that should not be. In a pre-Lok Sabha election move, Maharashtra’s Fadnavis government has decided to allot the public houses in a high-rise at the prime location in Mumbai.

According to the Indian Express report, the state government has planned a public housing society of 250 homes approx which has now been registered under the Navodaya Patrkar CHS Ltd at Kandivali area of suburban Mumbai. The land-plot size of 33,417 sq ft is adjacent to the area where Mumbai Metro Rail route already sanctioned. CM Fadnavis has announced 50% of allotment of homes will be reserved for the journalists those who cover the Mantralaya affairs and state politics. The chief minister office has directed to Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to transfer the revenue department owned land and implement the scheme on ownership basis at a nominal cost.

The chief promoter of the housing society and governing members belong to ‘Mantralaya Vidhimandal Vartahar Sangh (MVVS) – a body of journalists. They earlier had a meeting with CM and conveyed their demand of 50% reservation quota citing the definition used for ‘journalist’ have a broader meaning, and this makes their chances to get accommodation very less. The demand was agreed, and sub-urban collector was ordered to submit the proposal.

There was a constant demand from journalists from electronic and print media that they have not been allotted any land/homes for accommodation in Mumbai and many of them have not been in the condition to afford at high market rates.

the statement of CM Fadanvis as reported by Indian Express.

Maharashtra government to execute this particular decision has taken the recourse of the regulation 13(2) of MHADA (Estate Management, Sale, Transfer, and Exchange of Tenements) Act, 1981 along very recent amendment of 23 January 2019 to modify the provision for the category of journalists, as now included in the clause -“for the journalists those cover Mantralaya affairs and state legislature on a regular basis, the future special public housing schemes will have 50% reservation.”

This affiliation of the journalists with the state is indeed not new and have created the buzz among the circle connected to press-club, journalists’ bodies about ‘special’ sanctioning, permission of allotment in housing schemes for journalists, crony to the previous state governments, though they have already been possessing the multiple houses and gaining the undue advantages.

In the past, the allotment of houses and lands to the journalists by various state governments has been mired in the controversy. The well-known editors and senior reporters belonging to the media houses – The Telegraph, Indian Express, Zee News, ABP News, NDTV, Dainik Jagran, Punjab Kesari, Indian News, Hindustan Times were found to receive exceptional discounts by the Chauhan Government in Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot has given cheap lands, free laptops to the journalists in his previous stint. Telangana’s KCR govt has also been made the promise to provide the housing plots to the journalists. Further, there has a sharp rise been observed in the accreditation data in view of benefits to the journalists by the various state government in the past.

In the past, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India have not been comfortable with such irrational distribution of ‘affordable homes’ by state governments and has asked the clarification on ‘reserving plots and homes to promote housing in the general pool” for a special category of the persons.

Before this, Fadnavis Government has launched the pension scheme for retired journalists of Maharashtra.

The act of bribing the journalists by governments is a prevailed practice. The Press Council of India has also upheld the view that government accommodation, concessional land, free air tickets, and company shares to the journalists are among ‘undue’ favors.

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Article Desk

Contributed by The Article staff