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India continues to lose scribes to Covid-19

Geneva/Guwahati: One more Indian journalist falls prey to the Covid-19 pandemic as Noida based scribe Pankaj Shukla breathed his last on 20 November 2020. Hailed from Bareilly locality of Uttar Pradesh in central India, Shukla (50) was admitted at JP Hospital, Noida where he succumbed to novel coronavirus infection aggravated ailments. Shukla studied at Allahabad University and started his journalism career with popular Hindi newspapers like Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagaran, later the journalist shifted to electronic platforms like Janmat TV, Khabar Bharti, News 30, News Express, etc. Very recently Shukla launched his own youtube channel Rajsatta Express and worked as its editor-in-chief.

“India has lost 50 working journalists to Covid-19 complications, whereas the worldwide media corona-casualties rise to 469 in 56 countries. It emerges as the second most affected country among media persons after Peru followed by Brazil, Bangladesh, Mexico, USA, Pakistan, UK, Afghanistan, Russia, France, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Nepal, etc,” said Blaise Lempen, general-secretary of Press Emblem Campaign, an international media rights body based in Switzerland.

Haryana based journalist Rakesh Taneja (51) died of Covid-19 at a Faridabad hospital on 16 November. Taneja used to work for Zee News, Amar Ujala, Dainik Bhaskar, etc, and earned reputations while reporting on crime and legal beats. Orissa’s television scribe Prabir Kumar Pradhan (35) succumbed to the virus infection on 5 November. Pradhan used to work for News18 (Odia) news channel and died in the hospital.

A Tripura-based video journalist Jitendra Debbarma (46) lost his battle against the corona infection on 20 October. Debbarma worked for a Kakborok language cable channel named Chini Khorang and succumbed to Covid-19 complications at Khumulwng hospital. Mysuru based journalist Pavan Hettur (35), who worked for Kannada daily Prajavani died of the virus infection on 18 October at a private hospital.

Patna based photojournalist Krishna Mohan Sharma (63), who worked for Times of India, died of corona complications on 15 October while undergoing treatment at AIIMS, New Delhi. The same day, veteran cricket journalist & commentator Kishore Bhimani (81), died after contracting the virus at a hospital in Kolkata.

The robust Indian media family lost at least twelve journalists to corona-complications in September. Ludhiana-based veteran journalist Ashwani Kapoor (70), who worked for the highly circulated newspaper Punjab Kesari, succumbed to Covid-19 at a private hospital on 29 September. 

Guwahati based news presenter in All India Radio, Golap Saikia (52) died from corona-infections on 26 September at a city-based private hospital. Patna’s senior journalist Arun Kumar Verma (68), who was associated with various Prasar Bharti outlets died during Covid-19 treatment on 22 September. 

Indore journalist Manoj Binwal (55), who was associated with the Hindi newspaper Prajatantra, died of the virus infection while undergoing treatment on 20 September. A day back, Agra’s journalist Ami Adhar Nidar (50), who worked for widely circulated Dainik Jagaran, passed away with the infection. Jammu based scribe Anil Srivastava (68), who was associated with United News of India, succumbed to Covid-19 on 18 September at a government-run hospital. 

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Same day Jabalpur’s journalist Harish Choubey (60), who worked for popular Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, expired with the coronavirus infection. Aurangabad based journalist Rahul Dolare (49) died on 14 September at a government hospital. 

The same day, Chennai’s popular journalist-actor Florent C Pereira (67) died of Covid-19. Punjab’s Abohar based journalist Naresh Bajaj (57), who was associated with SachKahoon newspaper, succumbed to corona-complications on 10 September. 

Ravinder Kumar (30) from Himachal Pradesh, who worked for Dainik Jagran, died of Covid-19 on 9 September. Assam’s rural reporter Dhaneswar Rabha (35) died at Guwahati medical college hospital on 6 September. Rabha is the first scribe in the region to die of Covid-19. The next day, senior journalist Ashim Dutta (65) passed away with the infection at Silchar medical college hospital.

Months back, Dhanbad’s journalist Sanjiv Sinha, Gorakhpur’s photojournalist Rajiv Ketan, Mumbai’s senior film-journalist Shyam Sarma, Nellore’s scribe Narayanam Seshacharyulu, Pune’s television reporter Pandurang Raikar, Kanpur’s television journalist Neelanshu Shukla, Patiala’s photojournalist Jai Deep, Tirupati’s television reporter Madhusudan Reddy, and video journalist M Parthasarathy succumbed to infections.

The list includes journalist Prakash Deshmukh from Mumbai, veteran journalist Ashok Churi from Palghar, television reporter Ramanathan, and news videographer E Velmurugan from Chennai, news presenter Davinder Pal Singh from Chandigarh, television scribe Manoj Kumar from Hyderabad, journalist Pankaj Kulashrestha from Agra, journalists Simanchal Panda, K Ch Ratnam and Priyadarshi Patnaik from Orissa.

Kolkata’s photojournalist Ronny Roy became the first Indian scribe to die of Covid-19. Emerged as a severe health hazard, the pandemic has affected thousands of journalists and media employees in India as they are playing the role of corona-warriors along with the doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, police personnel, etc.

“The increase of media corona-casualties is precisely tempted by the insensitive approach of editor-managements’ towards the employees while engaging them on duties with little precautions,” said Nava Thakuria, the PEC representative in India.

With all the casualties, the pandemic also crushed the Indian mainstream media industry to a larger extent. Many print media owners have stopped publishing physical newspapers and shifted to the digital space. 

Some print management even closed down their editions in different places, reduced pages, cut salaries, and even layoff employees including senior journalists citing the reason for shrinking advertisement revenues.

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