Reply to TOI editorial

Given below is the reply sent to the Times of India’s article ‘Indian newspaper industry: Red ink splashed across the bottom line‘ published yesterday.

To
The Editor,
The Times of India

Sir,

Apropos ‘Indian newspaper industry: Red ink splashed across the bottom line’ (TOI Jan19) is a tissue of lies and half-truths. Nothing is farther from the truth to say that by scrapping of the Wage Boards or the Working Journalists Act will solve the problem of the industry. The fact is, that the owners of the big newspaper are top violators of the labour laws and they care too hoots of any Act or Law that tries to regulate the employee-employer relationship. There is not even one newspaper in the country including the Bennett Coleman and Company and the ‘venerable’ Hindu which has truly implemented the Majithia recommendations.

The aforementioned ‘editorial’ has not revealed that how many employees have been working for any ‘medium’ or ‘big newspaper’ before and after the Manisana Wage Boards was notified and how many employees are working in that newspaper after the notification of the Majithia Wage Boards. The unmistakable reality is that the number of employees in all newspapers across country has considerably gone down. Most of the employees in newspapers are working on the contract and they are not only ill-paid but are also denied of the benefits as are available to them under various welfare legislations. This is the main reason that Trade Unions hardly exist in the newspapers, and the Bennett Coleman and Company is the best example of it.

It has been repeated ad nauseam by this esteemed newspaper in many of its previous articles that the Second Labour Commission has suggested for doing away with the Wage Boards in all industries but it has conveniently forgotten that hardly any other recommendations of the Second Labour Commission suggested for the benefits of employees have been followed by the newspaper industry so as to inspire conducive atmosphere for the good employee-employer relationship. The editorial has wrongly stated that the employees of the newspaper industry are getting two-three times more than the employees of other industries. It is a blatant lie. The fact is that the employees, including those of journalists in most of the newspapers of the country, do not get even the minimum wages. Should you need the details of such employees, we will send the list containing the names of not hundreds but thousands of workers.

Freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct and the journalists have always been in the forefront of the fight for the protection of these hallowed rights, which have been given to all the citizens by the constitution of India. Needless to say, that it is the journalists who are targeted by the anti-social elements and the governments of the day while the owners often make compromises for their advantages. It must also be added here that most of the proprietors are misusing the powerful medium of their newspapers for blackmailing and extorting the undue benefits from the governments. There is no need to read between the lines of the above said article because its intent is clear to get the maximum relaxation under the proposed ‘Goods and Services Tax’ (GST) and other facilities from the present dispensation. If newspapers are incurring losses how are they making huge investments to diversify their businesses?

The editorial has not cited the balance sheet of any one of the newspapers to buttress its theory of running into losses. The article is completely silent on how much is spent on the payment of wages and what is the breakup of the expenditures on other inputs by the newspapers? However, we completely agree with one proposition of the editorial that the journalists have become ‘platform-agnostic, moving from filing for online to writing for print to appearing on television, all in the course of single work day’. This underlines the need for expanding the ambit of the Working Journalists Act to make it all encompassing, which we have been demanding for many years. We expect that you will publish our reply, which is so quintessential for the freedom of the press being espoused by the newspaper.

Parmanand Pandey
Secy. Gen. IFWJ

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