The Karnataka police filed an FIR against Aaj Tak news anchor Sudhir Chaudhary for spreading misinformation about a commercial vehicle subsidy scheme for minority, SC/ST and backward classes communities.
The FIR was based on a complaint from Shivakumar S, an official from the Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation. Chaudhary and Aaj Tak were booked under sections 505 and 153A of the Indian Penal Code.
Chaudhary’s show, which aired on September 11, had focused on an advertisement by the Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation, which promised a subsidy of 50 percent or up to Rs 3 lakh to people from religious minorities with a household income of less than Rs 4.5 lakh to purchase commercial vehicles.
The show claimed this was discriminatory and that Hindus could not access the scheme.
However, the anchor failed to mention that the same scheme can be availed by SC/ST community members under the Airavatha Scheme of the Dr Ambedkar Development Corporation Limited and by backward communities under the state government. Each state has corporations that deal with different communities and projects.
“The same scheme is available for minorities, SC/ST persons and backward classes persons,” said Priyank Kharge, Karnataka minister for IT/BT, and rural development and Panchayat Raj. “The respective corporations call for the tenders and the budget allocations are different.”
These three schemes were mentioned in the Karnataka budget announced in July 2023. The budget said the vehicle subsidy scheme – called Swavalambi Sarathi – can be availed by minority, SC/ST and backward classes communities.
But Chaudhary attempted to communalise the scheme by categorically saying, “This scheme is not for Hindus.”
On Aaj Tak on Monday night, he said, “What the Karnataka government is saying is even if you are extremely poor and have no money, if you are Hindu then no subsidy is given for buying a vehicle. But those who are Muslim, Sikh, Buddhists, they will get a subsidy for buying vehicles.” Religious minorities include Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Parsis.
Kharge then took to social media to say the state government would take legal action over Chaudhary’s “deliberate and malicious” statements.
“The anchor of Aaj Tak is deliberately spreading misinformation on government schemes which was first started by BJP MPs and is being amplified by sections of the media. This is deliberate and malicious, the government will be taking necessary legal action,” Kharge said.
Importantly, the scheme in question predates the Congress government, according to Manoj Jain, secretary to the Karnataka minority welfare department. “The scheme was earlier for Rs. 2.5 lakh and it is now increased to Rs. 3 lakh under the Swavalambi Sarathi scheme,” Jain said.
BJP MP Tejasvi Surya had earlier accused the Congress of devising a “religion targeted scheme” and “appeasing” Muslim voters.
The same claim was repeated by several other BJP leaders including MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
However, the Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation had from religious minority communities even in 2021 and 2022 when the BJP was in power. The corporation’s shows that under former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai, Rs 7.1 crore was released under the scheme in 2022-23 against a target of Rs. 15 crore. In 2021-22, Rs 5.4 crore against a target of Rs 10 crore was released. At the time, however, the scheme was simply called ‘Subsidies for Auto Rickshaw/Taxi/Goods Vehicle Purchases’.
The Swavalambi Sarathi scheme was mentioned on three separate occasions in the Karnataka budget announced by the Congress in July 2023 and it encompasses not only religious minorities but also people from SC/ST communities and backward classes.
- Swavalambi Sarathi scheme - subsidy of 75 per cent or up to Rs 4 lakh to SC/ST unemployed youth to buy four-wheeler vehicles.
- Subsidy for loans availed under Swavalambi Sarathi and Swayam Udyoga Loan schemes by unemployed youth belonging to Other Backward Classes for the purpose of self-employment.
- Subsidy for loans availed under Swavalambi Sarathi and Swayam Udyoga Loan schemes by unemployed youth belonging to minority communities for the purpose of self-employment.
Chaudhary, meanwhile, reacted to the FIR on X, formerly Twitter, saying he had been booked for “asking a question”.
But Kharge replied, “If you plant a babool tree, how will you reap a mango?”
This report was as part of The News Minute-Newslaundry alliance. It has been lightly edited for style and clarity. Read about our partnership and become a TNM Member .