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Akhilesh Yadav announces housing for UP journalists, days after eviction notices

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

A few days ago, Akhilesh Yadav's Uttar Pradesh government issued notices to 500 journalists based in Lucknow to vacate government houses allotted to them. And now, the Chief Minister has announced a new housing scheme for scribes.

The details of the subsidised housing scheme will be known only after a government order is issued.

If Akhilesh keeps the promise he made at a 'Meet the Press' programme at his official residence, he would be walking in the footsteps of his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, and BJP's Rajnath Singh, who had initiated steps to provide affordable housing to journalists in their tenures as CM.

The details of the subsidised housing scheme will be known only after a government order is issued

Although Akhilesh enjoys a good rapport with a majority of journalists and media houses, his announcement is being seen as an attempt to add to the feel-good factor just before the Assembly elections.

Reacting to this announcement, the Bharatiya Janata Party's state general secretary, Vijay Bahadur Pathak, said the party wanted the government to focus on the deteriorating law and order situation in the state, rather than on mundane issues like housing. But he was quick to add that the welfare of journalists should also get priority.

The present announcement seems to have dampened the enthusiasm of journalists, as it comes under the shadow of eviction notices, and they have only 15 days to vacate their quarters.

Pranshu, president of the State Accreditated Correspondents' Committee, said the debate over the timing of the housing scheme is not relevant, but at the same time, the concern over eviction notices to 500 journalists needs to be addressed immediately.

Does SC order apply to scribes?

The eviction notices were issued following the Supreme Court's order striking down the government's policy on allotting a permanent residence to all former Chief Ministers.

Official sources said notices have been issued in compliance with the apex court's order, but the journalist fraternity argued that the court order is applicable to former CMs, trusts, societies and organisations, and does not mention media persons.

Sources also claimed that the government would not ignore the welfare of journalists. Moves were afoot, these sources said, to bring in a Bill in the current session of the Vidhan Sabha to regularise these allotments.

Navneet Sehgal, principal secretary, information, told a delegation of journalists that "all issues are being looked into."

Photojournalist SM Pari, who led a delegation to the Chief Minister, said that the government's assurance on affordable housing will cover all journalists and not just photojournalists. "It will take 10-15 days for the necessary government order to be issued," he said.

What happened in the past?

When Akhilesh's father Mulayam first introduced the policy to allot plots to journalists, politicians and bureaucrats in the 1990s, a controversy had erupted, as plots were given only to those who were the CM's favourites.

It was alleged that many of the journalists did not even pay for their properties. In many cases the cost was borne by the government, with the Chief Minister's discretionary fund being used to make the payments.

When Mayawati took over as Chief Minister, she ordered an inquiry to find out if politicians, bureaucrats and journalists had been given plots out of turn at Gomti Nagar's posh Vipul Khand.

The prestigious Vipul Khand scheme of the Lucknow Development Authority had six sectors, of which only two were open to the public. Of the remaining, 500 premium plots were reserved for journalists, politicians and bureaucrats under orders from the then-CM's secretariat.

Amar Singh, who was then a general secretary of the Samajwadi Party, was first given a 35 square metre plot meant for economically weaker sections. It was subsequently converted to a 354 square metre plot.

The subsequent housing schemes used the lottery system to avoid any further controversy, and were meant only for journalists who were "poorly paid".

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 27 August 2016, 8:30 IST