Saturday, 4 December, 2021

Initial Days Of Gorkhapatra


Parmeshwar Devkota

Prime Minister Maharaj Dev Shumsher JB Rana issued a decree or Sanad (a document for special management) on Baishak 11 in the year 1958 BS for publishing a newspaper called Gorkhapatra, every week. Pandit Naradev Pande was deputed for publishing and distributing the newspaper. For this purpose, a Type Press and a Lithograph Press were pressed into action to print a maximum of 1000 copies of the newspaper.
According to the arrangement, the first issue of Gorkhapatra was published on Baisakh 24, 1958 BS with fanfare. In the beginning, the newspaper focused on literary items and government notices rather than covering breaking news and views.
♦ Do's And Don'ts
Interestingly, a 14-point long list of do's and don'ts regarding the matters to be published was issued and given to Pandit Naradev Pande. He was told not to publish 'stuff praising us'.
All the rights and responsibilities of publishing and distributing newspapers were given to Pande. But, the role of editor and publisher Pande was belittled as he was ordered to publish materials in the paper only after taking the written permission from Lieutenant Colonel Dilli Shamsher Thapa Kshetri.
Pande must have been a suitable candidate to look after the newspaper so was given the charge, but censorship was imposed on the newspaper from the very beginning.
Premier Dev Shamsher-initiated Gorkhapatra was only two-month-old when the most liberal of the Rana prime ministers was replaced by his brother Chandra Shamsher, saying, 'for the good cause of saving the life of Dev Shamsher.'
Dev Shamsher was exiled to Palpa for good. Interestingly, Gorkhapatra did not cover the news that Chandra Shumsher JB Rana was appointed as the new premier of Nepal. Later, a renowned scholar of the period, Raja Jaya Prithvi Bhadur Singh, was not only appointed as Talukdar of Gorkhapatra but was also given the authority to enjoy all the income earned by the paper from Bhadra 8, 1962 to Mangsir 30, 1965.
In this period, regulations of various types were issued and the various arrangement was made for Gorkhapatra. , and the Paper served the wishes and needs of Rana Prime Ministers Bhim Shamsher, Juddha Shamsher, Padam Shamsher and Mohan Shamsher.
It was also interesting to note that Jaya Prithvi was given the authority to enjoy all the incomes of Gorkhapatra but for some years. As Singh was sent to Calcutta as a lawyer, Premier Chandra Shamsher bore the responsibility of expenditure of ink and paper for the publication Gorkhapatra and issued an order to deposit savings made by the Paper to the State Coffer.
The newspaper covered the political turbulences of 1950-51 in one or the way another. It published photographs of King Tribhuban Bir Bikram Shah Dev returning from India and his proclamation of holding a referendum. The Paper covered the news of the first-ever multi-party democratic election of 2015 and photographs of victorious leaders, but none of the then dispensation thought for proper and stable management of Gorkhpatra.
The proper management of Gorkhapatra was thought only 59 years of its first publication. A board of directors was appointed for the proper development of the Gorkhapatra in 2017 BS. The board was formed under the chairmanship of Narayan Prasad Basnkota, the Director of Information Dissemination Department of the Government.
Public Relations officer Purna Prasad Upadhyaya, Editor-in-Chief of Gorkhapatra Gopal Prasad Bhattarai, and Manager of Gorkhapatra Nanibabu Acharya were members of the board.
It is not clear that whether that board had recommended forming Gorkhapatra Corporation or not, but Gorkhapatra Corporation was formed on 25 Asad 2020 BS under the Gorkhapatra Corporation Act 2019. The Act was passed on the 30th of Chaitra 2019. The Preamble of the Act envisages the right destination of the publication as an organised separate institution.
The Preamble of the Act reads: 'For the service and benefit to Nepali people, for greater possible participation of the people and for raising the standard of readability, daily running and publication of the Newspaper, it is necessary to separate (Detach) Gorkhapatra from the government control.
The Preamble further reads: 'The Paper should be run under Corporation; therefore, His Majesty the King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev made and issued the Gorkhapatra Corporation Act, 2019, in accordance to the Clause 93 of the Constitution.

♦ Property
The total property of the Gorkhapatra Corporation was considered one million. Out of that the Clause 2 of the Act provisioned 60 per cent share allocates to the government. It purposes to float 40 per cent shares to the public. Clause 8(1) of the Act provisioned a board of nine persons. Among them, five members from the government side and four from the shareholders, and the government-held right to nominate a chair.
Sometimes, the nation's oldest state-run paper has been used to disseminate wrong information. For example, Chiranjivi Wagle held important portfolios as the Minister for Physical Planning and Works and Minister for Information and Communications and Home Minister. When he was convicted in a corruption case, the then Gorkhapatra management was forced to publish the news items that he was innocent of. Later, he was jailed for the same charge.
It is high time the Gorkhapatra Corporation should be allowed autonomy under the public-private model to free it from unnecessary interferences from those who wield political clout. If international news organisations such as BBC can thrive through a public-private partnership model, why cannot Gorkhapatra through the same model? The public-private model will give it more longevity and prosperity.

(Devkota is managing editor at TRN)