Proposed Broadcasting Bill 2023
The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ), the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and the Andhra Pradesh Working Journalists Federation (APWJF) join the Network of Women in Media India, (NWMI) and the Editors Guild of India and others, in expressing their grave reservations against the proposed Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill 2023.

In a joint statement the NAJ, DUJ and APWJF state, that this proposed bill is a further step to expanding a new era of undeclared censorship and increasing government control over all types of media from TV channels, to films, platforms like Netflix and Prime Video, You Tube, radio, even Instagram and other social media platforms as well as news websites and journalists. The Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 comes on the heels of the Telecom Act of 2023, the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023 and the IT Amendment Rules, 2023.

The Broadcasting Bill blurs the distinction between journalism and content creation. The definition of news and current affair has been deliberately left so broad that all sorts of online media can be controlled through it. It clubs together both broadcast and digital media, although broadcast media includes the big channels while digital news media channels are often small outfits run by one or two persons. Many clauses, particularly those relating to self-censorship, are completely impractical given the nature of small news media. Some dangerous clauses include the power to seize electronic devices including studio equipment. There are apprehensions that the Bill could muffle independent voices including those of YouTube journalists, news analysts and digital websites.

The Broadcast Bill is being pushed in a hurry and could be yet another attempt to curb independent thinking, protest and dissent. It should be immediately rolled back.
Sujata Madhok, President–DUJ
A M Jigeesh,
General Secretary –DUJ
G Anjaneyulu,
General Secretary–APWJF
N Kondaiah,
Secretary General–NAJ
S K Pande, President–NAJ

A Misleading Interim Budget
By its own admission the government has brought in this interim budget, a vote on account, more as a stop-gap measure in the election year. It is a vacuous exercise which makes a futile attempt to paint a rosy picture of the economy. The reality is that unemployment rates are higher compared to when this government took charge ten years back and there is increase in agricultural workforce indicating shrinking of job opportunities in other areas. Farm distress is obvious with fall in agricultural prices. The fertiliser subsidies, food subsidies, MNREGA allocations have all fallen. There is marginal increase in Animal Husbandry budget but not enough to take care of all stray cattle which destroy more crops than what the PM-Kisan DBT can compensate. Similarly, Anganwadi, PM-Poshan, Old age, Widow and Disability pensions allocations have fallen too. The budget doesn’t have anything to arrest rising inequality, it is an anti-poor budget. In spite of high sounding slogans of Make in India or Atmanirbhar Bharat, the reality is that India’s dependence on China for essential items has increased.

The Prime Minister who criticises opposition politicians for distributing freebies does the same thing and has overseen a lacklustre performance of the economy. The much touted FDI hasn’t arrived to boost the economy, on the contrary declaring substantial amounts of loans, much larger than by previous governments, taken by crony capitalists as NPA has led to flight of capital from the country. There has been migration of HWI and, even illegal, of ordinary people from Gujarat risking their and their family members’ lives from the country indicating the economy is not so rosy after all.
Manoj Sarang, Spokesperson
Socialist Party (India)
Contact: 9446835833, 8921519296

ESI for All Workers
The statistics surrounding work-related incidents are deeply alarming, with devastating consequences for countless individuals. Globally, a shocking 5 people lose their lives every minute due to work-related injuries and illnesses, totalling 2.78 million deaths annually. Moreover, an astounding 374 million workers suffer non-fatal work-related injuries and diseases each year. In India, the figures are equally troubling, with approximately 5.2 million recorded medical injuries and 98,000 lives lost annually due to medical negligence and errors. Tragically, this leads to nearly 3 million years of healthy life lost each year due to work-related injuries, illnesses, and medical negligence.

It is essential to look beyond the numbers and give faces to the countless working men and women who confront such tragedies and vulnerabilities daily. Several media and research reports highlight the struggles of average workers and the poor due to inadequate medical services and the inability to access quality and affordable healthcare in the country, which boasts of being the world's largest democracy.

Regrettably, the rise in industrial accidents can be attributed to the weakening of industrial labour and safety regulations over time, all under the guise of improving the country's ranking in the Ease of Doing Business indexes. As a result, the labour departments are rendered powerless, and the well-being of workers is compromised.

It is imperative to acknowledge that the right to health and safety is an essential component of the fundamental Right to Life guaranteed to every citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Ensuring this right is the government's duty, and it must provide quality and transparent healthcare services accessible to all citizens.

To address these challenges and ensure adequate protection of workers' rights, Working Peoples’ Coalition [WPC] is organising a National Conference to Demand ESI for All Workers. The main proposition of universal access to the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) for all is an ambitious and essential goal. We are asking for providing access to quality healthcare and social security for every working individual. The event will foster a space for open discussions and exchange dialogues, encouraging participants to challenge existing norms and seek creative solutions.

Event Details:
l    Date: 24 February 2024
l    Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
l    Venue: Deputy Speaker Hall Annexe, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, Near Sansad Marg behind RBI Bank, New Delhi
MeenaMenon, Working President; Gayatri Singh, Vice President ; LourthusamyArokiasamy, Vice President; Rajiv Khandelwal, Vice President; RajendraBhise, General Secretary; Dharmendra Kumar, Secretary;VargheseTheckanath, Secretary;ShwetaDamle, Member; C Nicholas, Member
Working Peoples’ Coalition

Back to Ballot?
What may and will happen when there's paper ballot. There could be no "rigging" at the point of polling, it's done (exclusively) at the point of counting. But, both these points are vulnerable. According to specific circumstances, these vulnerabilities would be blatantly exploited.

The EVMs–in its very specific Indian version–to be sure, was introduced under the UPA Government.
The BJP cantankerously demanded it's withdrawal, till it would win via (EVM) poll.

Later, the VVPAT feature was added.

Till today, despite the entire din, there's not a single specific complaint that has formally been filed and pursued. And, during this period, the BJP did also lose big at least two very bitterly fought crucial state polls: West Bengal and Karnataka.

That's not to suggest that there's no need to be vigilant.

In fact, the regime would constantly be on the lookout for an opening to manipulate the system.

So, the working of system needs constant monitoring and public pressure has to be built to make it more and more tamper proof.

Teenage Pregnancies
Teenage pregnancy is a serious problem in rural West Bengal. The law enforcing authorities have failed to save the girls from their painful future as well as their immature deaths. Rajnagar Block of Birbhum district is a backward area where 34.9% of the population belongs to SCs and STs and the female literacy rate is about 59% (as per the 2011 census). About 50% of the population is involved in marginal activity for their livelihood for less than 6 months in a year. They are mostly dependent on the government’s dole for survival. There is no sustainable income-generating scheme taken on behalf of the government (both central and state) for their economic upliftment. Girls or females (about half of the total population) are the worst victims of the situation.

The parents treat their daughters as liabilities. So they get relief after giving their daughters in marriage early, even at the age of 14. The block-level status report estimates that out of 641 registered pregnancies, 183 are teens for the first time, and 114 cases are experiencing second pregnancies within their age range of 15–18 years in November–December 2023. The government health employees are only generating awareness to promote injectable contraception (ANTARA). There is no meaningful health programme to protect the girls from early marriage or to promote their higher education. Only when the girl reports her unwillingness to get married, the local administration takes some steps to protect her.
Harasankar Adhikari, Kolkata

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Vol 56, No. 34, Feb 18 - 24, 2024