Local dailies at verge of closure, officials unmoved
Srinagar, Sep 1: Amid COVID-19 pandemic the Information Department in Kashmir has not released the payments of the government advertisements to the newspapers since April this year.
The daily newspapers, which were included in the list of essential services soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the lockdown-I in March this year, are struggling to survive in the Valley.
During the past six months, advertisement flow to local newspapers in Kashmir has been cut by nearly 50% and the payments have not been released. One day before Eid-ul-Adha, the department had released the payment for the month of March, 2020 and after that the department went into oblivion.
The COVID-19 lockdown has hit every industry very hard and many people have lost their jobs during the past six months due to financial activities coming to a halt. Somehow local dailies in Kashmir have managed to hit the stands and keep people informed about the developments taking place during the pandemic times.
When COVID-19 pandemic broke out Prime Minister Nraendra Modi had made a fervent appeal to businessmen and entrepreneurs not to go for jobs cuts and ensure that their staff doesn’t suffer. He had given clear cut instructions to the government departments to help the businesses and industries so that they could survive in these difficult times.
In the COVID-19 times the government advertisements distributed by the Information Department are the main source of revenue for the Kashmir based local dailies as the private advertisements have disappeared due to most of the business houses facing huge losses. The Information Department withholding the payments in difficult times has pushed the newspaper owners and staff members in Kashmir to an edge. Instead of coming for the rescue of the media houses, the department has not paid any attention towards the financial crunch being faced by the dailies getting published in Kashmir.
The indifferent attitude of the department has triggered financial crisis within the media organizations. This has led to the salaries of staff members getting delayed due to which many people have been forced to change their profession. The Information Department not releasing the payments of the advertisements has led to more people becoming unemployed.
Many small newspapers have winded up their offices and have said goodbye to journalism. A few media houses that are working against all the odds are managing the show by one or other way. If the department keeps on turning a blind eye towards newspaper industry in the Valley it can lead to closure of more publications and will add to the army of unemployed professionals.
When contacted Joint Director Information Kashmir Harris Handoo told Precious Kashmir that “there is no paucity of funds” and the department is on the job to clear the payments. “Within a week or so payments will be released,” he added.