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Controlled media removes story that criticised government

Controlled media removes story that criticised government
Pic: The Wire

New Delhi: Times of India Jaipur edition, took down a story covered criticising BJP government’s ‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’ on September 14, 2017, within hours after being published.

The story by Rosamma Thomas reported how the scheme, which had to help Rajasthan’s unfortunate farmers, deceived them. The scheme was launched in 2016 and has till now only benefitted the insurance companies, due to high premiums and unpaid claims.

According to the office of the Comptroller, Auditor General (CAG) and the non-government Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the companies recorded a profit of Rs 10,000 crore till April.

“The deduction was made without warning. The bank had no clue about what I had sown. Moreover, Rs 1,718 has been deducted as ‘inspection charges’ though no one came for an inspection. To top it [all], the premium has been deducted when the crops were safe and beyond the risk period. My crop was uninsured for 80% of the crop cycle when the risk was at the highest. The premium has now been deducted for the full period,” a farmer who cultivates cotton and guar in equal halves in his 15-bigha farm told TOI.

On July 31 this year, Rs 7,827 was deducted from his SBI account as a premium for crop insurance.

Newspaper image, Pic: The Wire

As it stands now, farmers have very little to gain from having their crop insured, while private insurance companies are collecting the profits, agriculture expert Devinder Sharma wrote, as per The Wire.

The TOI report was not only embarrassing for the Modi government, but also for Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who has faced a lot of flak in recent months from farmers in her state.

Thomas told The Wire that she was asked to remove the word ‘fraud’, which wasn’t originally part of the copy she filed and was added by the desk while editing the draft, and get a quote from the authorities. However, the story was spiked even after she complied with these requests.

“We were not happy with the introduction in the story,” claimed Kunal Majumder, TOI‘s resident editor for Jaipur, even though the story was published in his edition and would have been added to the Jaipur bureau’s list of stories that form part of the ‘Times News Network’ (TNN) with his approval.

When asked if TOI will carry a clarification or a correction, Majumder said, “This isn’t a normal procedure. We have sent a revised copy to Delhi. Waiting for them to approve it.”

Interestingly, the story was also published under the ‘Good Governance’ section by TOI’s sister publication Navbharat Times as it still available on its website.

Times of India had previously removed a story on Amit Shah’s assets:

Also Read: As Amit Shah’s asset reports disappeared #ShahControlsMedia trending

In July, a story published by the TOI’s Ahmedabad edition about an increase of “300%’ in BJP president Amit Shah’s assets over the past five years was taken down from the newspaper’s website within hours after being published. On being slammed by the Opposition for getting the story removed, no explanation was ever given by the newspaper for its action.

As per the reports, TOI had also decided to delete its tweets and Facebook posts alerting readers to another story involving Smriti Irani: ‘PIL accuses Smriti Irani of fraud in MPLAD funds’. Irani is believed to have objected to the story, which appeared on July 27, 2017.

Newslaundry, which first reported the taking down of Rosamma Thomas’s story, also said that she had received a WhatsApp message on September 17 from an unknown person referring to Gauri Lankesh’s murder, said people who dare to write against Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the RSS would not be spared.

Similar messages have been sent anonymously to journalists around the country but are not believed to be linked to specific stories.