On February 1, 2013, the Indian government launched a new program to support journalists and their families called the “Journalist Welfare Scheme”. According to the purpose highlighted in the Notice of Review of the Journalist Welfare Plan dated 28 March 2018, the plan is consistent with the government’s constitutional responsibility to care for those in need of protection. For this reason, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) initiated this program to provide timely and transparent support to journalists and their families who are in extreme need.
The Journalists Social Plan guidelines provide for the definition of the term “journalist” which is as follows. This does not mean that all persons who meet this definition are eligible for relief under this scheme. A separate list of eligibility requirements is defined in the guidelines.
- “Active Journalist” as defined in “Active Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Condition of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1955”
- This could include news editor, reporter, photographer, photojournalist, freelance journalist, videographer, etc.
- The definition excludes any media staff performing administrative and supervisory functions.
As mentioned above, all persons who fall under the definition of “journalist” must meet the following eligibility requirements to be eligible for relief under this scheme. The criteria are:
- must be a citizen of India
- Must be an ordinary resident in India
- Must be accredited to PIB at Headquarters of Gol or at Headquarters of the State or UT
- Journalists presently not accredited are also eligible if they qualify for the aforementioned definition of ‘journalist’ for a minimum period of 5 consecutive years.
The Welfare Plan for Journalists is formulated and implemented by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). The administration of the plan is the responsibility of a committee set up for this purpose.
According to the original guidelines from 2013, the committee consisted of 5 members. , with the MIB Secretary as chair of this committee. The Government of India’s I&B Minister has been appointed Patron of the Committee.
However, in 2018, the Department of I&B reshuffled and streamlined the committee to work more efficiently. Only the Secretary (I&B), Principal General, PIB and Deputy Secretary (P&A) would be the official members of the Committee. As part of the changes, six journalists were appointed unofficial members of the committee. The mandate of these unofficial members is fixed at 2 years.
The committee must meet at least quarterly to review and decide on the applications received. However, depending on the urgency, the President may convene more frequent meetings. In some cases, the committee can make exceptions beyond the guidelines and submit them to the Minister for Information and Broadcasting for approval.
The application can be submitted online or offline in the prescribed format. Incoming applications are processed by the main DG, PIB, and forwarded to the committee for review and approval. The committee can also accept grant cases for financial assistance suo moto even in the absence of a request from journalists or beneficiaries.
The Government of India made no changes to this scheme after the outbreak of COVID-19. It is therefore not explicitly covered. However, in the event of the unfortunate death of a journalist (provided he is eligible according to the specified criteria), the victim’s family can make an application. under any of the provisions of this regulation.
Second, according to Press Information Bureau (PIB) officials contacted by factly, COVID-19 has not yet been included in the list of major medical conditions a journalist must apply for under the program. As things stand, in the event of an unfortunate death, the journalist’s family can apply under this program if the other criteria are met. However, the costs of treating COVID19 are not yet covered.