Naveen Patnaik, the chief of the Indian state of Odisha has approved a proposal to declare journalists frontline COVID warriors. Sunday's decision is going to benefit 6,944 journalists working in the state.
In a statement released by the state chief's office, Patnaik said "working journalists are doing a great service to the state by providing seamless news feed, making people aware of issues relating to COVID at this very trying time, and they are a great support for our war against the disease".
Journalists in the state will be covered under the "Gopabandhu Sambadika Swasthya Bima Yojana", a new health insurance scheme launched by the state government. They will receive health insurance of INR 200,000 ($2,700) each.
As per the statement, an ex gratia of INR 1.5 million ($20,250) is also being provided to the next of kin of journalists who die of COVID while performing their duty.
The decision comes against the backdrop of a recent study conducted by the Delhi-based Institute of Perception Studies, showing that between 1 April 2020 and 28 April 2021 as many as 101 journalists have died. As per the study, 52 of those journalists died in April of this year.
The state of Uttar Pradesh has seen the maximum number of verified deaths, followed by Telangana and Maharashtra.