Mamata’s regime marked by chit fund-owned media

By bappaditya paul 

West Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee may not have lived up to her 21 April 2012 announcement on launching a newspaper and a TV news channel, but during her 23-month rule, at least 29 news dailies and periodicals have flourished in Bengal, many of them promoted either by chit-fund companies or those associated with the real-estate business.

Saradha Group logoOf the 29 news dailies and periodicals that registered or renewed their titles with the Registrar of Newspapers for India between mid-2011 and March this year, a few had been operating from even before, but they expanded manifold after the Trinamul Congress government assumed office in West Bengal.

Apart from the scam-stained Saradha Group-run five newspapers and one periodical, this also includes Bengali dailies Khabar 365 Din owned by Rose Valley, Bhorer Varta owned by Silicon group, Prayag owned by Prayag group, Aabar Yugantar of Angel group, Ekdin of Chakra group, Pratyahik Khabar run by Tower group, Newz Bangla backed by the Kolkata Weir Industries Ltd and Din Parivartan run by the G-group.Benagl chit-fund owned newspapersPratyahik Khabar and Newz Bangla had started publishing before 2011, but while the former launched a separate Siliguri edition in 2012, the latter upgraded from an eveniger to a morning broadsheet in early 2011. Pratyahik Khabar has shut down both its editions a few days ago. Ekdin was initially funded by the I-core group, but a few months ago, they pulled out and now the daily is backed by the Chakra group.

Mr Ritobrata Bhattacharya, the former media advisor to chief minister Mamata Banerjee is the guest editor of Din Parivartan.

There is also a Bengali TV news channel ~ News Time ~ which is owned by Brand Value Communications Ltd, a sister concern of Rose Valley.

Saradha Group on the other hand ran The Bengal Post (English), Sakalbela, Kalom (Bengali), Azad Hind (Urdu), Prabhat Barta (Hindi) and Paroma, a Bengali fortnightly. It also owned Channel 10, a Bengali TV news channel.  Of them, Bengal Post, Prabhat Barta and Paroma have stopped publishing.Mamata Banerjee Almost all the groups that ran or are running the above mentioned dailies, periodicals and TV channels, are either into chit-fund business or are associated with real-estate development and hospitality industries.

A list of 73 multi-level marketing companies that the Union Minister of state for Corporate Affairs, Mr Sachin Pilot tabled in Parliament on 14 March regarding complaints received by his Ministry, include 15 entities of Rose Valley, nine of Saradha, four of Prayag, the Tower Infotech Pvt Ltd, Chakra Infrastructure Ltd, ICore E-Service Ltd and the Silicon Projects India Ltd.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 25 April 2013.)


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