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    Posted on 28 October 2011
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    KARNATAKA

    Yeddyurappa flouted rules to back RSS newspaper

    Hosa Digantha was accorded a ‘state newspaper’ status by bending rules, got state govt ads worth Rs 1 crore in the past 6 months

    Imran Khan
    Bangalore

    Chief Minister Yeddyurappa

    The BJP-ruled government under former Chief Minister Yeddyurappa granted undue favours to RSS mouthpiece


    More skeletons are tumbling out of former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa’s cupboard. The latest controversy involves the RSS morning daily Hosa Digantha, which got undue patronage of the BJP-ruled government apparently to spread the Hinduvta message.

    Hosa Digantha, whose tagline Rashtra Jagrutiya Dainika means Daily for National Awareness, has been accorded a ‘state newspaper’ status by its benefactors sweeping aside the recommendations of a State Information Department panel. Though the RSS mouthpiece lacks the necessary circulation, print and certification from the central Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), rules were bent with the state government providing two industrial sheds in Bengaluru worth Rs 5 crore to the newspaper for Rs 1.5 crore.

    Started in 1979, Hosa Digantha’s Mangalore edition has a print run of less than 20,000 copies. Despite running for 32 years, it failed to make impact until the BJP came to power in 2008. In three years, the paper’s circulation hit 55,000 with the addition of Bengaluru and Shimoga editions. In fact, Yeddyurappa, during the launch at his hometown of Shimoga, hailed the newspaper’s “contribution to journalism” and said the reason for its success was its policy of “nation first”.

    This year, the daily was granted the status of a state newspaper. According to the recommendations of the P Ramaiah Committee, which framed rules for according newspaper status, a publication should have not less than 1,000 copies daily to be accorded a district-level newspaper status. Regional newspaper status is given to publication with the same print run in more than two districts. But the criteria for a state newspaper status are tough making circulation of 75,000 and presence in more than 19 of the 30 districts of the state compulsory.

    A government order in 2001 made ABC certification mandatory for newspapers. Muddu Mohan, Director of State Information Department, had written to the state government on 17 March that a paper that failed to meet the required criteria could not be granted the status of a state newspaper. However, overriding his objection, a circular was passed on 13 April according the status of state newspaper to Hosa Digantha.

    When questioned about this anomaly, Ramesh Jharkhi, Secretary in the Information Department said, “The state government in its wisdom had passed the orders’’ refusing to comment further.

    BV Seetaram, Editor and director of Mangalore-based newspaper Karavali Ale (Canara Times, a regional newspaper) has filed a petition in the High Court against the government’s decision. “The Department of Information in November 2010 issued advertisements of Bhagyalaxmi (an insurance scheme for the girl child) programmes in Chikmagulur and Bidar districts to Hosa Digantha despite its zero circulation in the districts. The advertisements were denied to our newspapers even though we also belong to the regional newspaper category,” Seetaram claimed.

    According to a data sheet of advertisements released by the Information Department collated by Seetaram, the newspaper got state governments ads worth Rs 1 crore in the past six months. “The data does not mention advertisements released by other departments,” he added.

    (Information sought under the RTI Act by Tehelka shows tha since January, the newspaper has received advertisements worth Rs 49.21 lakh.)

    Seetaram alleges that even the name of the publication has been stolen from a rival newspaper. “This newspaper has the registration number of another daily with the same name and owned by a different management based in with Chikmagulur.”

    Hosa Digantha Editor Chudamani Aiyyar, himself an RSS activist said, “We had filed a case against the newspaper in 1980 in the magistrate’s court of Dakshin Kannada. In June 2011, we filed a case against the management of Janana Bharathi Trust for stealing our name.” Muddu Mohan refused to comment on this matter.

    Chairman of the management board of Hosa Digantha and Director of Century Real Estate Holdings Pvt Ltd P Dayananda Pai was unavailable for comment. When contacted, his office informed TEHELKA that he was out of the country.

    CEO of the trust Prakash, however, denied the allegations saying, “Though we don’t have ABC certification, our paper reaches all the districts of the state. As for the name registration issue, we have sorted that matter out. And, the twin sheds at Rajaji Nagar were legally granted to us at their actual cost price.”

    A local weekly Lankesh Patrike recently reported that Shantaram, the Resident Editor of Hosa Digantha and an RSS leader, was the beneficiary of a Housing Board house worth Rs 35 lakh. According to the documents available with the daily, Yeddyurappa had himself paid for the house-- located at Sooryanagar in Bangalore--despite the editor owning another plot, which amounts of violation of law. For a similar reason, former Lokayukta Justice Shivaraj V Patil had to step down.

    The state BJP government has also granted land all over the state to RSS-affiliated institution Rashtrothan Parishat. Documents available with TEHEKA show that close to 100 acre of land have been given to this organisation in the past three years. The details have been listed below.

    Sl. No.

    Date

    Place

    Survey number

    Extent of Land Allotted.

    1.

    08/07/2010

    Doddballapur Taluk , Tobagere Village

    38

    7.20 acre

    2.

     

    Doddaballapur Taluk, Kelaginajugana Village

    47

    36

    3.

     

    Doddaballapur Taluk, Kelaginanayakarndalli, village

    5

    6.20

    4.

     

    Haveri District, Taluk Hanagal, village Malligar

    Rs. No. 1

    5.18 acre

    5.

    01/09/2010

    Doddaballapur

    38/47/05

    Based on their application on 16 August, 2010, additional 50 acre has been allotted to them.

    Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
    [email protected]


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    Posted on 28 October 2011
 

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