Gadgets for journalists lands Assam govt in controversy

The Information and Public Relations (I&PR) department of the BJP government in Assam has stoked a controversy over electronic gadgets distributed among journalists.

The department which is headed by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has distributed 200 Samsung Galaxy tablets among scribes between 2018-19 and in 2019-20 but a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act revealed that the government neither has a policy nor set criteria for distribution of the devices.

The reply to the RTI query filed by a senior journalist of Assam, Rajib Kumar stated that the government has ‘no information’ under which policy the tablets were distributed to the scribes neither has it any information on who prepared the list of 200 journalists who availed the gadgets.

“Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal often harps on the BJP’s pet slogan: ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’. But the hollowness of this claim of inclusivity is glaring even in the state’s Information and Public Relations Department. It discriminates between journalists on the basis of their reportage and this had been evident in the recent distribution of Samsung Galaxy tablets,” Kumar said in a social media post on Friday.

Kumar also uploaded the replies provided to him by I & PR department in this regard in the social media post.

He said that several senior accredited journalists, who are perceived as anti-establishment and don’t toe the government’s line, were left out by the department in extending the gadgets. “The government did not even divulge, even after an RTI application was filed by me, what was the yardstick it applied to select the beneficiaries,” he said.

“Here, I would like to keep the record straight. I am not hankering for these tablets. But the question here is of the government’s policy and how it tries to create division among journalists through such discrimination,” he said.

The distribution of the tablets started from April 2018 and continued till September 2019.

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