Punjab and MP declare journalists 'frontline workers', eligible for priority vaccination

Punjab and MP declare journalists 'frontline workers', eligible for priority vaccination
Punjab and Madhya Pradesh on May 3, 2021, declared journalists as frontline workers, which will enable them for priority vaccination. Additionally, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday announced that apart from accredited and yellow card journalists in the state, all power corporation employees in the state have also been brought under the ambit of frontline workers. These employees, along with the journalists, will now be eligible for all the benefits that the frontline workers are entitled to, including priority vaccination, the Chief Minister said at a high-level COVID-19 review meeting. Journalists have been taking grave risks in covering the pandemic from the ground and helping to spread awareness about the virus for the past more than a year, the Punjab Chief Minister said. “They need to be protected, he said, adding that though many states had raised the demand for their inclusion in the frontline workers category, the government of India has not responded so far.” The Punjab government, therefore, has decided to provide frontline protection to the journalists and also power corporation employees, who too are endangering their lives while maintaining critical power services in hospitals and other vital institutions. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan while declaring media professionals accredited with the state government as frontline workers, also said that journalists were risking their lives while doing their duty during this "dangerous period of COVID-19 pandemic". "Therefore, we have decided to declare all accredited journalists as frontline workers in Madhya Pradesh. They will be taken care of," Chouhan said in a video statement posted on the Twitter handle of the Chief Minister's Office. Around 4,000 journalists are currently accredited with the state government, according to a public relations department official. The official said the state government was yet to decide on other modalities regarding this announcement. These announcements come a day after the Bihar and Odisha also declared journalists as frontline workers and COVID warriors respectively. On instruction of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the Bihar government on May 2 said that all journalists accredited with the Information and Public Relations Department at the state level and also non-accredited scribes authenticated by the district public relation officers, from print, electronic and web media, will be considered as frontline workers for inoculation. All of them will be given COVID vaccine on a priority basis, an official statement said. The state government took the decision considering the important role mediapersons are playing in making people aware about the danger of the highly infectious disease. The chief minister has on various occasion acknowledged the services rendered by the mediapersons during the coronavirus pandemic and the risk involved in their jobs. In Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday declared working journalists of the state as frontline COVID warriors. While approving a proposal to this effect, the chief minister said, journalists are doing a great service to the state by providing seamless news feed and making people aware of coronavirus-related issues. "They are a great support for our war against COVID- 19," a statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office said. "As many as 6,944 working journalists of the state have been covered under the Gopabandhu Sambadika Swasthya Bima Yojana. They are getting health insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh each," the statement said. Odisha has also announced an ex gratia of Rs 15 lakh for the next of kin of journalists who die of COVID-19 while performing their duty, it said. As many as 11 newspersons have died of the infection in Odisha since the beginning of the pandemic, sources said. Mamata Banerjee, incumbent West Bengal Chief Minister, also called journalists COVID warriors in a speech on Monday. “I declare all the journalists as COVID warrior. You work taking your lives at risk. We have lost so many journalists due to COVID. The COVID management is my priority,” she said, adding that there was a shortage in vaccine supplies. However, there hasn’t been an official communication on whether journalists will be eligible for priority vaccination in the state. Earlier on April 3, Uttarakhand had deemed journalists as frontline workers too, qualifying them for priority vaccinations. Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat had said, "During the ongoing pandemic, the journalists in the state worked like frontline workers in providing the required information to the people about COVID-19 which helped the government significantly." He added that the staff of the state information directorate would also be eligible for priority vaccination. (With PTI and IANS inputs)

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