India Continues to Lose Journalists to Covid-19 as Noida Scribe Breathes His Last

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Journalist Pankaj Shukla

The pandemic has claimed the lives of 469 mediapersons in 56 countries

T Navajyoti | Clarion India

GENEVA/GUWAHATI – One more journalist fell prey to the covid-19 pandemic with Noida-based scribe Pankaj Shukla breathing his last on the night of 20 November.

Hailing from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, Shukla (50) was admitted at JP Hospital, Noida where he succumbed to the novel corona virus infection.

Shukla studied at the Allahabad University and started his journalism career with popular Hindi newspapers like Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagaran. Later, the journalist with a charming personality 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 has risen to 469 in 56 countries. In fact, India has emerged as the second most affected country for mediapersons after Peru, followed by Brazil, Bangladesh, Mexico, the US, Pakistan, the UK, Afghanistan, Russia, France, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Nepal etc,” said Blaise Lempen, general-secretary of Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), 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 won encmiums for his reports on crime and legal issues. 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 hospital.

A Tripura-based video journalist Jitendra Debbarma (46) lost his battle against the corona infection on 20 October. Debbarma worked for a native Kakborok language cable channel named Chini Khorang and succumbed to covid-19 complications at a 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 also lost at least 12 journalists to corona-complications in September. Ludhiana-based veteran journalist Ashwani Kapoor (70), who worked for highly-circulated newspaper Punjab Kesari, died of 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 Hindi newspaper Prajatantra, died of the virus infection while undergoing treatment on 20 September. Only a day ago, Agra’s journalist Ami Adhar Nidar (50), who worked for widely-circulated Dainik Jagaran, passed away due to the infection.

Jammu-based scribe Anil Srivastava (68), who was associated with the United News of India, succumbed to covid-19 on 18 September at a government run hospital. The same day, Jabalpur’s journalist Harish Choubey (60), who worked for popular Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, expired with the corona virus infection. Aurangabad-based journalist Rahul Dolare (49) died on 14 September at a government hospital. The same day, Chennai’s popular journalist-actor Florent Pereira (67) died  of covid-19.

Punjab’s  Abohar-based journalist Naresh Bajaj (57), who was associated  with Sach Kahoon 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. Next day, senior journalist Ashim Dutta (65) passed away with the infection at Silchar medical college hospital.

A few months ago, Dhanbad’s journalist Sanjiv Sinha, Gorakhpur’s photo journalist 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 also succumbed to infections.

The list of media casualties also 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. Emerging as it did 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 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 managements even closed down their editions in different places, reduced pages, cut salaries and even laid off employees, including senior journalists, citing the reason of shrinking advertisement revenues.

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