All big newspapers coming out from the state of Jharkhand have not even bothered to reply to the queries of the Labour Department. The State Labour Commissioner Shri Praveen Kumar Toppo has filed the report on sworn affidavit. An advance copy of the report has been served on employees counsel Parmanand Pandey, which says that the notices were issued 93 newspapers they have refused to cooperate with required information.
Newspaper owners have not produced any record or registers to the inspectors of the Labour Department making difficult for them to ascertain the magnitude of the implementation of the recommendations of the Award. Two newspapers Dainik Jagran and the Hindustan Media Ventures (publishers of the Hindustan) have taken stand that the employees do not want the hiked wages under the Majithia Wage Award, as they are content with the existing salary, which is much less than what the Wage Board has recommended.
To be very fair the Labour Commissioner of Jharkhand has stated in his report that there is an inherent contradiction between Section – 20j and Section – 13 of the Working Journalist Act and he has wanted the Hon’ble Supreme Court to clarify the contradictions so as the Governments could take any definite decision on the issue. The chart that has been annexed with the affidavit demonstrates that there are 18 newspapers, which regularly come out from the State Capital Ranchi and none of them has implemented the Award.
Similarly, 24 newspapers are published from Bokaro but not even one has been reported to implement the Award. Jamshedpur is another important centre of publication wherefrom 27 newspapers, including the Telegraph of the ABP Pvt. Ltd. and the Prabhat Khabar are printed regularly. While the Telegraph has not bothered even to reply to the notice, the Prabhat Khabar has used the shield of Section 20j for not giving the Wage Board.
The publisher of the Prabhat Khabar i.e. Neutral Publishing House claims that there are only 43 employees working for the newspaper but it is startling to know that out of these only three employees are on the payroll, 39 are on contract and one is a daily wager. The brazenness of the management has crossed all heights and limits, when it says that all employees have opted for proviso 20j of the Wage Board recommendations.
Further to rub the salt on the wounds, the management has refused to produce any record. Similarly, the publisher of the Hindustan i.e. Hindustan Media Ventures Ltd. claims that there are only 51 employees, who bring out the newspaper. Out of it, there are only 13 employees on regular employment and 13 are on contract. This newspaper says that the Majithia Award stand implemented in this organization, thanks to Section 20j of the Wage Board recommendations.
Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar have no comparison as far as the exploitation of the employees is concerned. The proprietors of these newspapers do not have even a wee bit of shame in saying that the employees do not want Wage Board, they are happy with the existing wages. It is a known fact that this option under Section 20j has been forcibly obtained by the managements under the pain of threat and intimidation. The report has two pleasant surprises that two small newspapers- one from Dumka and other from Jamshedpur- have said that they have implemented the Award.
In nutshell, all-important newspapers like Hindustan Media Ventures Ltd., Prabhat Khabar, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Aaj, Hindustan Times, Telegraph, Sanmarg, and Ranchi Express have cocked the snook to the law of the land and they have been violate the labour laws with the gay abandon.
P.S.: The next date of hearing of the Contempt Petitions has been tentatively fixed for 15th of September. However, the report of many state governments is yet to come, therefore, there is every possibility that the hearing for arguments may not take place on said date.
Ram P. Yadav
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