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Urdu newspapers closing down fast

New Delhi: The All-India Urdu Editors' Conference, while expressing deep concern over the fast closure of Urdu newspapers and the deteriorating situation of the current Urdu media throughout the country, holds the government as well as Urdu readers responsible for it. M Afzal, president of the conference and former member of Parliament, said in a recent statement that on one side Urdu knowing people rarely purchase Urdu newspapers, magazines and books and on the other side those who pick up courage to publish such newspapers and magazines are facing the onslaught of the government as well as the private companies. Biased treatment is meted out to them and all along it is said that Urdu readers have no purchasing power.

M Afzal added that according to a survey conducted by a news agency (UNI Urdu), many reliable newspapers being published in UP since long have already been closed down and some are on the verge of closure.

The critical position of Urdu newspapers at national level throughout the country was disclosed on 27 November 2000 in reply to a question raised in Parliament, according to which only 113 Urdu newspapers have been registered in the DAVP panel for the year 2000-2001. Earlier, around 500-600 Urdu newspapers used to be on the panel of this advertising agency which issues government advertisements. Along with this it was also known that in case of new applications, which were pending for three years, no consideration was made (except a few) at all. It was stated that fresh applications should be made using new forms. This caused great hardships and difficulties not only to Urdu newspapers but also to small newspapers of other languages.

Mr Afzal said that now new policies and forms have been released by the Ministry of Information, as a result, small and medium newspaper throughout the country will not only be incurring losses but they may cease publication altogether. The policy-makers did not even think that English or other widely circulated papers are confined to big cities. Regional language newspapers in the small and medium category reach cities, towns, villages and the ordinary people. Probably the policy-makers and officers of the ministry, while framing the policy and forms of DAVP had only the rules and interests of big agencies in mind which do not pay any attention to small papers. Under the new policy small and medium newspapers have indirectly been strangulated, said Mr Afzal.

A delegation of the All India Urdu Editors Conference met the minister for information & broadcasting, Ms Sushma Swaraj along with seven MPs on 13 December last year, and apprised her about the deplorable conditions of small and medium-sized newspapers. Mrs Swaraj admitted that there has been great injustice, no doubt, to small and medium category newspapers in recent times. She also promised the delegation to remove their difficulties.

This new policy exposed the intentions of the National Democratic Alliance government, which wants to promote only the large newspapers. As a result of this new policy, almost the entire budget of DAVP will be grabbed by large newspapers because whatever has been demanded in the new form cannot be furnished by small and medium newspapers. The expenses incurred in meeting the requirements of DAVP will be much more than what these papers earn throughout the year by way of advertisements. It appears that in order to remove the disease, the officers have decided to kill the patient himself.

An important problem is that as a result of a secret conspiracy of large newspapers, the central ministries act against the guidelines prepared by themselves. These guidelines say regarding publicity that central ministries will carry out their publicity through DAVP only. Mr Afzal said that acting against these guidelines most of the ministries release their advertisements through private agencies directly. Only a few ministries release their advertisements through the DAVP. As a result, the government bears losses in two ways. Firstly, private agencies get these advertisements at their own inflated rates. Moreover, they also expropriate 15 percent commission for themselves which they charge from newspapers. Rates of DAVP advertisements, as per their own rules, are much less. Hence, because of differences between commission and advertising rates, government suffers losses to the tune of hundreds of millions of rupees every year.

Advertisements released by ministries normally go to large newspapers only because they are on the panel of large advertising agencies. Mr Afzal said that the present government wants to promote only the English and Hindi newspapers and it is working under a plan to eliminate small and medium newspapers of regional languages.
Urdu Editors Conference has sought the advice of about 450 Urdu editors throughout the country in order to face this challenge and lay down an action plan.
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