In an embarrassing development on Friday, journalists in Odisha were handed over Rs 500 each in closed envelopes as ‘bribe’ to cover the event of Union Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari.
The event, held at Anugul, was organised by National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).
Journalists covering the event were shocked to find Rs 500 note as part of their press kits. Almost all reporters reacted angrily at the blatant attempts to ‘buy’ them with money.
One journalist told Janta Ka Reporter, “This is not the first time a political party has resorted to such lowly practice. Often the government of India events are hijacked by the BJP here in Odisha. Since the state is scheduled to have assembly polls in couple of years time, this was a blatant attempt to woo us journalists for favourable reporting.”
Seeing the journalists react strongly, the organisers played it “we-don’t-know-who-did- this” game. The official present at the function told reporters that the incident will be investigated soon.
Gadkari was in Anugul for the laying of foundation stone of a national highway project work for Angul-Sambalpur, Tileibeni-Sambalpur, Balasore-Jharpokharia and Bahanaga-Singara stretches.
Earlier in the past, a similar incident of offering ‘bribe’ money to reporters had taken place when the BJD MP Pinaki Mishra faced such protest in Puri in 2014 after money was distributed inside press kits to reporters covering the event.
Hours after Janta Ka Reporter carried this story, the authorities were forced to respond to the revelation.
“We have received the complaint and we are looking into the matter,” Angul SP Brijesh K Rai told PTI.
He also said that some NHAI officials have since been called for questioning.
“We may call the meeting organisers again if required,” the SP said.
Meanwhile, the NHAI has also ordered an inquiry into the allegations that an effort was made to bribe media persons at the event.
“Anyone found guilty will be punished,” an official statement issued by the NHAI said.
Odishas Commerce and Transport Minister Nrushingha Sahu condemened the attempt to bribe media persons at Gadkaris programme.
Both Gadkari and Dharmendra Pradhan attended the “Bhumi Pujan” at Dussehra ground in Angul town today.
It was organised before construction work began to widen Angul-Sambalpur, Tileibani-Sambalpur and Balanga-Jharpokharia national highways.