What explains the astonishingly high number of accredited journalists in Andhra Pradesh?

What explains the astonishingly high number of accredited journalists in Andhra Pradesh?
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Information obtained by way of a Right to Information query shows that Andhra Pradesh has an astonishingly large number of journalists who have been given official accreditation by the state government: more than 15,000.

Compared to this, Karnataka has 815, Bihar 770, Punjab 450, Orissa 157, Jammu and Kashmir 81, Himachal Pradesh 76 and Goa 72 accredited journalists. Those figures are lower than the number of officially recognised journalists in any single district in Andhra Pradesh: upward of 900.

Accredited journalists are entitled to concessions on trains and buses and health facilities, among other benefits .

What explains this?

Some argue that the number of accredited journalists in Andhra Pradesh is high because of the large number of dailies in the state. Amar Devulapalli, secretary-general of Indian Journalists Union and consulting editor of Sakshi TV, brushed away allegations that Andhra Pradesh was accrediting journalists indiscriminately. “There is no hanky-panky,” he said.

However, according to a 2014-’15 report of the Registrar of Newspapers in India, the largest number of publications are published in Uttar Pradesh (5,506), followed by Madhya Pradesh (2,494), Delhi (2,465) and Uttarakhand (1,847). Andhra has only 1,648.

While the number of accredited journalists for some of the above states was not readily available, it is instructive to note that the number of accredited journalists in Rajasthan is 1,631, which has about the same number of publications – 1,660.

So what accounts for this high number?

“No qualification or experience is needed,” says TVR Rao of a channel called 6 TV. “I know a journalist who is 19 and got his accreditation card in three months.” Rao, who has been a journalist for 12 years, was accredited in 2005, after around a year on the job.

A journalist with a Telugu daily, who has worked in the state for past 30 years, said that political leaders attempt to ensure favourable coverage by giving journalists the benefits of accreditation.

Andhra’s mediascape

But why isn’t this happening in other states too?

Andhra Pradesh has a mix of TV news channels – mostly owned by politicians and businessmen. The Hoot, a media watchdog website, reported that out of 24 TV channels in Andhra, 21 are in the hands of corporate and political giants. “A few try to be neutral, but are hardly objective,” says the report.

For instance, Sakshi daily and its sister TV channel are owned by politician YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Chief minister Chandra Babu Naidu’s close aide Vemuri Radhakrishna owns ABN Andhra Jyothi. T News belongs to Telangana Broadcasting Private Limited, the official mouthpiece of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti.

Email queries sent to P Krishna Mohan, Andhra Pradesh’s Commissioner of Information and Public Relations Department, did not elicit any response.

Benefits of an accreditation card

According to the website of the Information and Public Relation Department, accredited journalists get access to several government facilities, including an employee health card that gives them and their families medical coverage of Rs 2.5 lakh every year.

Besides, accredited journalists get fare-waivers in Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation buses. They get free bus rides within the district and only have to pay 33% of the fare when travelling to other districts in the state. Accredited journalists also get 50% waive-offs in trains.

“Waive offs in trains and buses help journalists immensely,” said Suribabu S, a reporter with Eenadu in Visakhapatnam. “Journalists mostly apply for accreditation to avail these two benefits, health and travel.”

It is also possible for journalists to get a plot of land at a subsidised price: accredited Andhra journalists are entitled to 3.5 cents of land (around 1,500 sq ft) at less than market price.

Rules for accreditation

The accreditation process is theoretically governed by strict norms, and by that token is limited to journalists who fulfil those conditions.

According to Information and Public Relation Department, of Andhra Pradesh, there should be a two-tier accreditation committee – the state media accreditation committee and the district media accreditation committee to issue official recognition to journalists.

Rules laid down by the Information and Public Relation Department clearly state:

“he/she (journalists) shall have spent not less than five, three and two consecutive years in the profession of journalism for accreditation at State Headquarters, District Headquarters and at Mandal level respectively.”

But in practice, the management of the publication decides who should be given the card and sends names to the department, said Eenadu reporter Suribabu. Qualifications and experience do not matter much.

Devulapalli of the Indian Journalists Union admitted that there are loopholes in the accreditation process. “Sometimes the lower-level officials in Information and Public Relation Department take bribes for giving accreditation,” he said.

The outcome

Not everyone is pleased with the situation. “To say the least, it is extremely unethical on the part of journalists,” said former Deccan Chronicle journalist VS Krishna. “Some kind of racket is going on in the state.”

However, others argue that the benefits don’t amount to much. “The small favour one gets from government accreditation doesn’t really count for much,” said the bureau chief of an English national daily based in Visakhapatnam, requesting anonymity. “They mainly ensure better operations for a reporter working on the ground.”

Added a senior Telugu journalist based in Delhi: “You guys are barking up the wrong tree. Journalists don’t count. When the government already has media barons in its corner, who needs journalists?”

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In photos: Raised in laboratories, these Bangalore beagles are finding real homes

In photos: Raised in laboratories, these Bangalore beagles are finding real homes
Photo Credit: Ajay Palekar
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“Debbie actually chose me,” said Seemanthini Channamallikarjuna, who adopted one of the 23 beagles up for adoption at a recent camp in Bengaluru. Channamallikarjuna had never seen laboratory beagles before, and even though she had done her research, she was tentative about how to approach the dogs. While some beagles walked around freely, others seemed to huddle in a corner as if unsure of what was going on. Channamallikarjuna remembers seeing Debbie, who was getting her infected eyes cleaned. “I went and sat in a corner near these introverted beagles,” Channamallikarjuna said. “She just came and lay down on my lap.”

For Channamallikarjuna and her husband, Debbie’s gesture meant that they had found a new member of their family. And despite all the challenges associated with getting a seven-year-old beagle acquainted with the real world, the couple took Debbie back to their home in Mysore.

Debbie was part of the third round of laboratory beagle adoptions conducted in recent years by animal rescue NGO Compassion Unlimited Plus Action. Animal testing is legal and beagles are among the most common test subjects along with mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats and monkeys. As one of the oldest known dog breeds – one that hasn’t been genetically moulded by breeders – beagles are not predisposed to genetic diseases that affect many pedigree breeds. They are also small, compact and easily transportable.

The beagles in the current batch being rehabilitated have not had tests performed on them. Some of them have been used for breeding purposes, while others were in captivity while research projects were pending approval and eventually scrapped. The dogs have been confined to laboratory environments and have spent most of their lives in small cages.

Source: Seemanthini Channamallikarjuna
Source: Seemanthini Channamallikarjuna

“Beagles are very docile,” said Chinthana Gopinath, a volunteer with CUPA and coordinator for the adoption camp. “Even when they are kept in a cage and hands are constantly going in and pulling them out for injections or dissections, even then they are not given to aggression.”

Waiting for adoption day to begin. Source: Ajay Palekar
Waiting for adoption day to begin. Source: Ajay Palekar

Gopinath has earlier seen dogs as young as a year old or as even old as 11 emerge from the laboratory having been tested with chemicals for drug toxicity.

“Usually, it is very common with laboratories that once they are done with testing, they euthanise the dogs,” said Gopinath. “The one thing animal NGOs ask is that once testing is done, release them into NGOs care to give them a shot at life with peace and love and all of those things.”

Swapping number tags for collars and names. Source: Ajay Palekar
Swapping number tags for collars and names. Source: Ajay Palekar
Finding new families. Source: Ajay Palekar
Finding new families. Source: Ajay Palekar

In a few days, around 30 dogs are set for another round of adoptions. The adoption camps are a brief happy interlude in the dogs’ lives. Readjustment and recovery is a long process, as their new pet parents well know.

“These dogs have a hell of a time coping with pathogens once they are brought out,” said Srilakshmi Amirtheshwaran, a dog psychologist who has been working with canine adoptions for about 12 years. “The microbes in the atmosphere immediately latch on to their underdeveloped immunity and that is a challenge for vets.” Used to near-silent facilities, the beagles are often terrified by noise. The presence of other dogs might be stressful to them and human touch can be intimidating.

Yet, for families across Bengaluru, Mysore and Chennai the challenge is worth it. Channamallikarjuna has seen how quickly Debbie is learning to adapt to her house, from starting to eat normally to climbing up and down stairs. “When there is an unfamiliar sound or movement she just freezes, but if you leave her alone she comes back to normal. On the first day, if we spoke even in low voices she would tuck her tail between her legs,” she said. “These might be the last years of their lives and I just wanted to give one a chance to live in a happy home.”

Debbie learning to use the stairs. Source: Seemanthini Channamallikarjuna
Debbie learning to use the stairs. Source: Seemanthini Channamallikarjuna
Debbie in her new home. Source: Seemanthini Channamallikarjuna
Debbie in her new home. Source: Seemanthini Channamallikarjuna

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India vs Sri Lanka: Boys in Blue aim to bolster credentials ahead of World T20

India vs Sri Lanka: Boys in Blue aim to bolster credentials ahead of World T20
Photo Credit: Craig Golding/AFP
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After the convincing 3-0 win in last month’s Twenty20 series in Australia, the home series against Sri Lanka that starts on Tuesday must seem like a mere formality for an Indian side high on confidence. However, if history suggests anything at all, this series will be anything but a stroll for the home side.

India have a 3-3 record against Sri Lanka in this format, but it is their World Cup record against the islanders that will prove worrisome for MS Dhoni’s men. Rewind to the 2014 World T20 final – it was Lasith Malinga’s men who broke their final hoodoo to triumph over Dhoni’s boys in Dhaka.

The Indians did not fare much better in the 2010 World T20 when they succumbed to a last-ball finish in Gros Islet, St. Lucia in a group stage match. Being played a mere month before the World T20, this series against the world’s No 3 T20 side is a good chance for the home side to prove their title credentials, especially considering that they have been drafted into a tough group alongside Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

For one man in particular, this series will be more about redemption than anything else. Yuvraj Singh endured a horror show against the Lankans in the 2014 final, eking out a 21-ball 11 during the most crucial part of the innings, leading to India sub-par total.

Back in the squad and having had a fairly decent series against Australia, the Punjab left-hander will look to settle scores once and for all. The 33-year-old looks like he has got a new lease of life but he will still have to perform to retain hopes of getting into the final World Cup T20 squad. Fail to do so, and no doubt, the vultures will start circling again.

Finding the right combination

India’s best player in Australia, Virat Kohli, has been given a well-deserved rest. This will give captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni the chance to tinker with his middle-order to find his best combination. Although Suresh Raina, Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Dhoni pick themselves in the squad based on past exploits and current form, India’s middle order still remains a worry with the finisher’s positions – numbers five, six and seven far from settled.

Shikhar Dhawan for one will be looking to cement his place in the final XI for the World Twenty20. The opener has had an up-and-down season so far. With Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and new boy Hardik Pandya all jostling for places, the competition is fierce.

Pawan Negi, the 23-year-old rookie who was selected for this series in place of Kohli, must be feeling confident after being sold for a whopping Rs 8.5 crore at the Indian Premier League auction on Saturday. Negi did well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, where he scored 173 runs for Delhi and bagged six wickets in nine matches. Rishi Dhawan, Gurkeerat Singh Man and Umesh Yadav miss out, while Manish Pandey and Bhuvneshwar Kumar get a look in.

A return of two veterans

This will also be an intriguing tale of two returning 36-year-old pacers. While Ashish Nehra played all the three T20 matches against Australia, Dilhara Fernando will return to the Sri Lankan squad after almost two years on the back of his performances in the domestic Premier T20 tournament. Fernando finished as the third highest wicket-taker with 11 wickets at an economy rate of 8.40.

His experience will be key considering that Malinga and Mathews are out owing to injuries and the Lankans just lost a recent T20 series to New Zealand 2-0. Leading the side in Malinga’s absence will be Dinesh Chandimal. An injury to Tillakaratne Dilshan also means that wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella has been called up to the squad and most probably will play the first match.

One player to watch out for will be middle-order batsman Dasun Shanaka, who set the domestic T20 tournament alight with his performances. Spinner Ajantha Mendis still does not find a place despite a good show with the ball (12 wickets) in the same tournament.

In comparison with the World Twenty20 and the Asia Cup thereafter, this may look like a low-key series. But, Dhoni will not mind – it gives him an opportunity to play around with his team and figure out his winning combination. In many ways, this will be the perfect starter for the delectable main course that is coming up next month.

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Uber to Launch Carpool Service in Kolkata

Uber to Launch Carpool Service in KolkataAfter Bangalore and Delhi, taxi aggregator Uber would launch carpool service Kolkata this year, offering at least 30 per cent lower fares to those who share cab rides as part of efforts to check rising pollution.

“In 2016, we are going to start carpool service in Kolkata. This is keeping in view of the high pollution levels which are choking the various metros of the country by bringing down the number of cars on the roads,” GM (east) of Uber India Systems Ashwin Dias said.

Passengers can take advantage of sharing rides in the same direction which would help them to reduce their individual fares by at least 30 percent, Dias told PTI.

For this, Uber would have to develop a Kolkata-specific app which would contain entire data relating to traffic congestion and traffic behaviour in the area where its GPS would operate.

The other app-based aggregator Meru Cabs had already started carpooling services in the city.

Dias said that Kolkata has been one of the fastest growing markets for Uber internationally.

“We started our service in August 2014 and the response was terrific. People who were used to the yellow taxis have moved over to app-based aggregators as it provided them convenience and the drivers got flexibility,” he said.

Asked about the number of cars which Uber was aggregating in Kolkata, Dias said as per international practice that number could not be divulged.

To abide by the West Bengal government guidelines, Dias said that Uber would apply for the for On Demand Technology Transportation Aggregators (ODTTA) licence soon.

Dias also said that Uber would also make efforts to take advantage of the state government’s Gatidhara’ scheme.

“The scheme entails that any unemployed youth of the state would get a subsidy of Rs. 1 lakh for purchase of a commercial vehicle”, he said.

This is a great opportunity for us to get more drivers in our fold, he said.

Regarding security and safety issues, he said that Uber was now doing a pilot project with Bidhan Nagar Police Station for GPS tracking of the vehicles.

“This will be implemented in other police stations as well,” he said.

[“Source-Gadgets”]