Chief minister Naveen Patnaik despite his phenomenal electoral success in poll after poll has been at the butt of journalists’ discontent. Reasons? He has been characteristically a reclusive politician keeping aloof from the media glare. Unlike his more garrulous counterparts in other states, Patnaik never thought it prudent to connect with the media. Hobnobbing with the members of the Fourth Estate has never been his forte except of course his sporadic interviews with some eclectic Lutyens Delhi scribes and the scripted answers.
Patnaik’s neglect and disdain of the local press has been staple of informal chit chat sessions. But, of late, he has effectively stemmed the dissenting voices with two unprecedented announcements for the benefit of scribes. First, the Gopabandhu Health insurance scheme, assuring a cover of at least Rs two lakh for journalists and their dependents. The repackaged health cover supplanted its previous fractured version, the cause of angst amongst journos. Second, a suite of incentives for the welfare of the press fraternity. The state government will offer a compensation of Rs four lakh to the next of a kin of a journalist if the latter dies on duty. That apart, a compensation of Rs two lakh will be provided to the family of a working journalist if he has turned physically invalid or is seriously ill.
Over and above the Rs two lakh insurance cover guaranteed under the Gopabandhu Health Insurance scheme, a top up financial assistance will be provided if actual expenses outstrip the insurance limits. The additional assistance would be subject to approval from the Directorate of Medical Education & Training.
On house building loans of up to Rs 25 lakh, the state government will offer an interest subvention of three per cent. The subvention amount will be released each year after repayment of regular installments with interest. The state government has also declared interest subvention of three per cent on four-wheeler loans not exceeding Rs four lakh and on two-wheeler loans up to Rs 50,000.
That apart, the government will extend an assistance of Rs 1500 per month till Matriculation and Rs 2500 per month for higher studies to the children of deceased working journalist. The state government will also make arrangements to train journalists at institutions like Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC). The government will defray short-term training costs for a maximum of 35 journalists. A cost of up to Rs 10,000 per journalist will be borne by the government.
Political analysts reading into the recent munificent doles by Patnaik targeted at the media feel it will rebrand his image. From a cavalier approach to the press, the measures will build a wall of support for the chief minister. With the most widely read vernacular and a couple of TV channels in his grip, Patnaik with his latest incentives has effectively sealed any anti-propaganda from the media in the run up to the polls.