CGHS cover will be restored to journalists: Dasmunsi

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New Delhi, Mar 19 (UNI) Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Parliamentary Affairs Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi today assured the Rajya Sabha that the review of the CGHS scheme was in the final stages and the government would soon come out with a revised scheme to benefit journalists.

''It is a serious and important matter, and on the priority list of the UPA government,'' he said.

The Minister was responding to the concern expressed by BJP Member Sushma Swaraj and all others over the death of veteran journalist Tara Shankar Sahai, reportedly because of lack of adequate treatment due to paucity of funds and their demand for extension of CGHS cover to acreditated journalists.

Raising the issue during the Zero Hour in the House, Ms Swaraj, who had also held the Information and Broadcasting portfolio in the previous NDA Government, said it was unfortunate that the veteran journalist died because of lack of finances for proper treatment.

She said a senior member of the Press, which was called the pillar of democracy, and without which one could not imagine Parliament proceedings, should not be neglected like that.

Ms Swaraj said that perhaps some Rs I.50 lakh was given from the Prime Minister's relief fund, but what was needed was the CGHC cover to journallists.

''I have no hesitation in admitting that the facility was extended to journalists during the Rajiv Gandhi regime. I extended it further as a health minister. Now, the government is saying that it was not stopping, but CGHS was not being reviewed. The Minister for Information and Broadcasting should intervene and sort out the issue with the Health Minister,'' she said.

The Minister responded to her suggestion but his reference to journalist Ifthikar Geelani insinuating that he sufferred greatly because of the Income Tax raids after he was falsely implicated in a case related to the Official Secrets Act under her tenure as Information and Broadcasting Minister led to a verbal clash with her.

Along with Ms Swaraj, other BJP members like Yashwant Sinha and S S Ahluwalia also rose up and strongly protested againmst reference to the Geelani case. Ms Swaraj said she could not be held responsible for the I T raid against Geelani as the matter was out the of purview of her then portfolio.


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