April 13, 2011
The Chief Election Commissioner
Election Commission of India
Nirvachan Sadan
New Delhi
Dear Sir,
We would like to draw your attention to a very disturbing development regarding paid news and the manipulation of media organisations through the instrument of financial ratification to influence news coverage by the said media organisation to further the electoral interest of a particular political party. An all-party meeting convened at the behest of the Election Commission had unanimously agreed that the EC can, indeed, act on instances of “paid news” as it vitiates the process of free and fair elections and undermines a level playing field. It was also decided in the said meeting to classify paid news as an electoral offence and recommend an amendment to the RPA   to incorporate this understanding. 
While it is quite easy to identify news coverage in the media as biased and favouring a particular party or a candidate, it has been equally recognized that it is extremely difficult to establish the modus operandi of financial gratification. 
But recently, a glaring development has brought such an instance to our notice. The Kolkata High Court has stayed the leasing out of two acres of prime urban land on the Kolkata Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. The Trinamul Congress-led KMC decided on 22nd February, 2011 to lease the said land for an amount of Rs. 6.60 crores and Rs. 120 as annual lease rental disregarding the opposition and boycott of the opposition Left Front Councilors. (A copy of the notice for the meeting and agenda is annexed herewith together with agenda paper of the KMC meeting.)
That this act of the Corporation led by TMC can be construed as financial gratification is clearly made out from the fact that the said land is a prime commercial urban land and the price in the area has been going up sharply since mid-1980s. Earlier the Kolkata Municipal Development Authority had sold land for a five star hotel project where 6.2 acre plot was given out for Rs. 213 crores in 2005. Similarly, the Left Front led Kolkata Municipal Corporation transferred 6.29 acres of land to EMMAR-GSF Group (Delhi-Dubai) @ 33.60 crores per acres amounting of Rs. 213 crores, the other bidders were DLF-HILTON Group etc. The KMC in the same year in July 2006 transferred 5.50 acres of land to DLF-HILTON Group @ Rs. 27.79 crores per acre amounting to Rs. 154 crores. The other contestants were ITC Hotels and Raheja Group. The KMC again in August 2006 transferred 5 acres of land to LIC on a long term lease @ Rs. 55.24 crores per acre amounting to Rs. 276.20 crores. When the land price in Bypass area was soaring, the KMC leased out 2 acres of land to Pratidin Trust @ Rs. 5.5 lakh per cottah amounting to Rs. 6.60 crores for 2 acres of land. This dole at the cost of public exchequer would leave a loss of Rs. 100 crores to the public body. (We are also annexing press reports to substantiate this point.) 
We are hereby appending a large number of clippings from Pratidin newspaper to substantiate the fact that this newspaper is acting as almost an official mouthpiece of the Trinamul Congress Party. We are confident that any independent study by the EC will also bring out this fact. Apart from this, the media group being headed by a TMC MP in Rajya Sabha and TMC supremo Ms. Mamata Banerjee being a columnist in the group newspaper has a bearing on its news coverage. The media group is also currently controlling a Bengali TV channel – viz, Channel 10. The channel also has the same policy towards news coverage. 
In the light of this, we urge the Hon’ble Commission to enquire into the matter by sending notices to the concerned media group, as well as, the concerned political party.
We are also observing that a large number of paid up advertisement is being released by the TMC to both the print and the visual media. We are also observing that a large number of channels and newspapers are having a biased coverage of the elections. In the light of this, there is a need to set-up a media monitoring cell by the EC and scrutinize whether there is a relationship between advertisement revenue earned and the nature of coverage. It is for the EC to draw appropriate conclusions and this initiative will go a long way in ensuring a level playing field in the conduct of the elections for parties – rich and poor and act as a deterrent against the pernicious instrument of `paid news’
With regards,
Yours sincerely
(Sitaram Yechury)
(A. B. Bardhan)
Member of Parliament
General Secretary
Member, Polit Bureau, CPI(M)
Communist Party of India
(Nilotpal Basu)  
(Abani Roy)
Member, Central Secretariat, CPI(M)
Member of Parliament
Secretary, RSP
(S. P. Tiwari)
Member, Central Committee
All India Forward Bloc