Gangtok: Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Golay on Sunday recognised journalists in the state as frontline workers amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. He promised to pass the decision through his Cabinet and ensured that journalists would get their COVID-19 vaccination on May 19.
“A Cabinet meeting on May 18 will pass a decision and recognise journalists as frontline workers. We understand your safety and we understand you concern. Anyone who is above 19 years can come to any of the centres to get themselves vaccinated,” Golay said.
Currently, there is only one centre in Gangtok but later one can go to any of the vaccination centres and get their vaccines, he said.
“On May 19, from 9 am, we will vaccinate 150-200 journalists. It will be a special vaccination drive for the journalists,” Golay said.
Expressing gratitude to the CM and the state government, Bhim Rawat, president of the Journalists’ Union of Sikkim, highlighted how journalists have been working during the pandemic risking their lives. “We reach places with high risks to bring news to the people. Many of us have also tested positive for COVID-19 and are under treatment. During this time, the government’s decision to organise a special vaccination drive is welcome news,” he said.
Sikkim Express journalist Dichen Ongmu highlighted how women should be given the first preference in the vaccination drive.
“I feel it was due to our laidback attitude, or overconfidence maybe, that we were not recognised as frontline warriors so far. Personally, I am touched by the immediate intervention of the CM into the issue,” she said.
Sikkim Chronicle‘s Kavita Sharma expressed how journalists have left no stone unturned to bring news during the pandemic. “Since 2020, journalists have been risking their lives and those of their families to bring news which is their part of their duty. Recognising their work, they should have declared us as frontlines earlier. The government has given where it is due by providing us with COVID relief funds, which we must never forget. They wanted to work out a solution for us, it was only a concern of lack of suggestions and solutions not reaching the authorities on time. But we appreciate the decision taken by the chief minister and thank him”.
Summit Times‘ Aron Sukraj Rai said how in the early days of COVID-19 pandemic, journalists were occasionally regarded as Covid frontliners. “When the time came to value our services, we were not there in the group of other frontline workers. Vaccines came, other frontline workers got vaccinated. We were still waiting for our turn. The frontliner tag will hopefully alleviate such heartburns in the coming days for us. We are more focused on our responsibility of delivering news to the people of Sikkim,” he said.
Young journalist Taiong Bhutia felt the government was not willing to increase the number of frontline warriors. “Our gratitude can be best expressed by doing our duty first. It’s an add-on to be on the safer side which the recognition gives us,” Bhutia said.