GUWAHATI, May 2 - Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal today held an interactive session with the editors and senior journalists of media houses of the State here and sought their views and suggestion regarding overall situation in the State during the COVID-19 emergency, besides the way forward in case of relaxations and exemptions during the extended period of nationwide lockdown.
Calling on the media outlets to exercise restraint while reporting news about administrative machinery engaged in the COVID-19 fight at the frontline without verification, the Chief Minister said that unauthenticated and unverified news could de-motivate and discourage all those who were providing their services to contain the outbreak of the global pandemic in the State. He referred to the news about NSG soldier engaged in his security as infected by COVID-19 reported by certain media houses and said such unverified news could create chaos and panic in the government machinery.
Terming the media as conscience keepers and opinion moulders of the society, Sonowal said media�s conscientious decisions would determine in which direction the society would move. He also appreciated the role played by media during the lockdown period by disseminating the right information to the people, generating awareness and also by acting as a bridge between the people and the government.
The Chief Minister also referred to the slew of austerity measures taken by the State government to cut down expenditure in the time of economic slowdown and said that guarded approach has been taken to relax certain economic activities to bring the State�s economy back on track post COVID-19.
Highlighting the agriculture department�s role in providing market linkage to the farmers to sell their produce, Sonowal said directives have been given to the department in this regard. He also highlighted the step to take private players on board this time in managing the requirement of essential items and keeping the prices in control.
He said around 49,500 vehicles carrying essential items and people have moved in the State during the ongoing lockdown under the transport department. He also said repairing works of embankments, which were stopped due to the lockdown, have started.
Welcoming the suggestions such as not to convert schools into relief camps for flood-affected people during the forthcoming rainy season which would result in loss of teaching time for students, closing down rural roads in border districts which people take to sneak into the State from outside, COVID-19 testing of police personnel engaged in the field, social distancing and food supply in slums, regular payment of advertising bills due to the media houses, etc., Sonowal said these would help the government in charting the future plan of action.
Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was also present in the meeting, said that in comparison to worldwide and nationwide mortality and recovery rate of COVID-19 patients, Assam is in a safer position now. He informed that the State government has already developed a strategy to facilitate movement of people of the State stranded at different places across the country giving preference to students, pilgrims and elderly persons and also for providing sustenance to migrant workers of Assam stuck across the country for next three months. He also informed that presently an amount of Rs 4,900 crore is available in the State exchequer in spite of economic slowdown and State government has decided to release full salary of government employees for the month of June and continue with regular appointment in government departments.
Editors and senior journalists representing 47 media houses of the State took part in today�s interactive session and offered their suggestions for formulating revival plan of Assam�s economy in the post COVID-19 scenario.
State ministers Atul Bora, Phani Bhushan Choudhury, Rihan Daimary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya, Keshab Mahanta, Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna, DG of Assam Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta and senior officials were also present in the meeting.