The Odisha Assembly today witnessed noisy scenes over the problems faced by journalists as both opposition and treasury bench members competed with each other asking the state government to fulfil the scribes' demands.
The issue was raised by Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh during Zero Hour. Cutting across party lines, MLAs belonging to Congress, BJP, ruling BJD and Independents expressed their concern over non-fulfilment of the "genuine and just" demands of the working journalists.
"It is strange that journalists in Odisha are not being given minimum facilities like pension, health insurance, government accommodation and other essential needs to perform their professional duties," Singh said.
When Singh was speaking, his party colleagues rushed to the Well of the House and demanded a ruling from the chair. "How can the state government ignore journalists who are working day-in and day-out for the society," asked Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan.
Stating that members of the treasury bench are also equally concerned for the welfare of working journalists, government Chief Whip Pravat Tripathy said, "The government has already set up a committee headed by the Chief Secretary to consider the demands of working journalists. They should be immediately provided with pension, government accommodation as per rule and and other benefits."
Supporting the demands of scribes, senior BJD MLAs and former ministers like Pradeep Maharathy, Atanu S Nayak and Amar Satpathy said journalists should not be neglected as they are part of the democratic set up.
"Press is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy and they should be given similar facilities as enjoyed by legislature, executive and judiciary," said senior Congress member Santosh S Sajula.
Senior BJP member K V Singhdeo said journalists' issues must be addressed in a time-bound manner and the government should fulfil their demands during the current session.
Earlier, the working journalists submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister seeking immediate redressal of their seven-point charter of demands, comprising Health Insurance Cards, pension for journalists on attaining the age of 58 years, government accommodation in the state capital as per rule, simplification of norms to avail benefits of Journalist Welfare Fund, re-introduction of concession for scribes while travelling in government buses, government recognition to all working journalists (print, electronic, photo and video journalists) and security and protection for working journalists.