On poll eve, BJP government allots prime Bombay land meant for public housing to journalists—50% reserved for those covering “state affairs and politics”

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There are several ways for Air Traffic Control to find out if a stormy election is en route, and if a ruling party is feeling the ants in its pants.

MPs suddenly become active, inaugurating projects long-ago announced or inaugurated. Ministries announce quotas, sops and ‘special packages” for interest groups they had diligently ignored. Macho ministers start tweeting like mouses.

But a sureshot way is to see the media (or sections of it) being wooed and bewakoofed.

# On January 9, the ministry of information and broadcasting announced a 25% increase in advertisement rates for government ads released by the Bureau of Outreach and Communication (BOC), previously known as the Department of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP). The last hike had come in 2013, on the eve of the general elections.

# This was followed, on January 25, with an 11 per cent increase in ad rates for private TV channels less than a month after a review committee recommended such a hike. And less than two years after a similar hike in ad rates in 2017.

Today’s Indian Express front-pages an even more brazen attempt to chummy up to the media in election season.

A 33,417 square feet plot in Kandivli in Bombay, earmarked for “mass public housing” is being set aside by the BJP-Shiv Sena government for a housing society for journalists. And chief minister Devendra Fadnavis says 50% of the houses will be reserved for journalists covering “state affairs and politics”.

“For the past several years, journalists haven’t been allotted any space in Mumbai and most of them can’t afford to purchase homes at market rates. There was a constant demand from members of the electronic and print media for the same,” Fadnavis is quoted as saying.

Maharashtra’s housing development agency already has reservations for journalists but Dilip Sapate, the promoter of the journalists’ housing society, says barely 40 houses are allotted to journalists under the category annually.

There is no doubt that housing has gone out of reach in most cities, but surely that’s not just for journalists, and not just now. And surely, the chief minister could have chosen a more opportune moment to help the needy amongst us, not when elections are looming, which makes it seem less like a gift and more like a bribe “for favourable coverage”.

The Indian Express story carries the byline of Sandeep Ashar, but it is a fair guess that many other journalists at Mumbai Present Club too knew of the government gift but few were ready to bell their own cat.

A similar allotment of expensive sites/plots by the Congress government of S.M. Krishna to a host of “eminent” journalists in Bangalore, under the G-category, had kicked off a storm in the champagne glasses.

Read the full story: Prime Mumbai plot for public housing goes to journalists

Also read: Bangalore journos named in site allotment scam

NDTV, Deccan Herald, Zee, NIE journos in plot list

Only in India: 90% off for journalists!

Media houses are sitting on plots leased at one rupee!

A magazine, a scam, an owner and his Goan house

How Dainik Bhaskar misused subsidised land

‘Journalists are longest, unauthorised squatters’

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