The J&K administration has claimed that the financial package announced by Jammu Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha is aimed at helping business and entrepreneurs under Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. The government move has come in for the appreciation from different quarters including the business community of the Union Territory.
The main components of the package of Rs 1350 crore include 50 per cent waiver of fixed charges in electricity and water tariff, five percent interest subvention to all borrowers irrespective of their sizes, assistance to bus drivers and conductors and auto and taxi drivers who may have lost their livelihood during the past one year, by providing for an appropriate mechanism, 50% or Rs five lakh subsidy whichever is lower shall be provided to the transporters for replacement of old buses, for the tourism sector, subsidy for installation of Bio-digesters in the houseboats have also been announced, assistance to some Shikara/Houseboat owners/tourist guides/Pithuwalas/Dandiwalas/sledge Walas/Pony/Camel riders.
There is also a relief fund for artists who have lost their livelihood apart from “Business Revival Package” to all eligible borrowers. Another component of the package for people associated with agriculture apart from tax concessions for filing of the GST reimbursement. But the government has maintained complete silence on any kind of assistance to media industry which has been hit hard during the past more than 13 months, first due to the clampdown that was imposed in wake of abrogation of Article 370 on august 5 last year and subsequently due to the COVID-19 lockdown. There are thousands of people directly or indirectly associated with print and electronic media in Kashmir.
The double-lockdown has forced the media houses to go for layoffs. Doesn’t these people deserve the government attention for helping them out of the financial crisis. While on one hand, the government has financially choked the media by limiting the advertisements which form the essential component of the plan to keep the things going. On the other hand, all the sources of the revenue to media industry in the form of advertisements from private industry has dried up due to the lack of any business which is the result of prevailing uncertainty in the Valley. The reality is that this industry is the worst sufferer. Many media houses are on the verge of closure.
Although the information department has had always supported the media through various revenue means, this, however, is not sufficient for the smooth functioning of the media organisations.
Now the only unfortunate thing is that whenever government (UT or Centre) announces any package for the sustenance or revival of the private sector, the media industry has always been ignored. The recent financial package is a fresh example of such misfortune. This has happened despite pleas forwarded directly or indirectly by various media association to the government. Time has come when the government needs to reconsider its approach towards the Kashmir media industry and come up with a bailout package.