R. Ilangovan

SALEM: Department of Tamil Development, Endowments and Information has to pay Rs. 4.02 crores to compensate the expenses incurred by the six State Government Road Transport Corporations for providing 15,103 annual passes to scribes, cameramen and photographers in the media to travel in its buses within Tamil Nadu between 1999 and 2008 – all free of cost.

The break-up of the total amount includes Rs. 3.54 crore for free travel of scribes from 1999-2000 to 2006-2007 and Rs. 52.50 lakhs for a period of 2007-2008. The government after “careful consideration” permitted the Information Department to pay the amount to the six corporations. A cheque will be paid to the Personal Deposit Account of Tamil Nadu Government Transport Corporation Development Fund, which in turn would disburse the amount to the respective corporations.

The top beneficiaries of this free bus pass scheme are scribes in Villupuram district for whom the department had to pay Rs. 1.71 crores to the Villupuram division of Transport Corporation followed by Madurai with Rs. 65.17 lakhs and Chennai with Rs. 62.15 lakhs. Kumbakonam, Coimbatore and Salem followed in that order.

Again Villupuram district topped the list of beneficiaries of free travel in the media with the government giving 6,333 free bus passes followed by Madurai (2,438) and Chennai (2,361). Based on demands from various media fora, the then government issued an order in 1979 approving free passes to correspondents and photographers in respective districts.

Later, another order in 1999 asked the Department of Information to pay the expenses incurred against free passes to respective transport corporations.

The Managing Directors of Corporations were asked to send a list of correspondents, photographers and cameramen to the Information department, which fixed Rs. 3000 against each pass whether the scribe availed herself of the benefit or not and the same would be paid by the department itself.

“As media grows, the expenses increase correspondingly. The government is seriously mulling the idea of including correspondents and cameramen of all electronic media for the scheme, which means an additional expenditure to the exchequer,” says a senior official.