plea to PM- “Save the Media”
New Delhi : The Indian Federation of Working Journalists today urged the Prime Minister to ensure that the sixth step of his “Saptapadi” (seven steps) is not retarded by profit-hungry media proprietors. In an appeal to Mr. Narendrabhai Modi, the IFWJ president, Mr. K. Vikram Rao, and his colleagues said that large-scale, retrenchments, lay-offs, wage cuts, suspensions, transfers and closures in the media world today wreck the Prime Minister’s hearty appeal (April 14) to owners to “Be compassionate towards employees. Don’t deprive them of livelihood.”
Legitimately the working journalists and other employees find that Corona has hit the nation in virus form but to media persons in the human from. The IFWJ pointed to the Union Home Ministry’s order, issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which says: “All the employers, be it in the industry or in the shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages to their workers, at their work place, on the due date, without any deduction, for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown.” But the press barons have reduced it to lock-out.
Mr. Vikram Rao also quoted the submissions by the Labour and Home Ministries, who were arrayed as respondents in the petition on April 11 before the Delhi High Court, which had heard five employees of St. Stephen’s hospital (Gurugram) against their termination. The government Counsel had told the court that the management’s action was not legal. They upheld the employees’ pleas that Union Labour Ministry had on March 20 and 23 issued advisories to all employers, which had “specifically directed that persons engaged contractually or casually with either public or private establishments not be terminated during the Coronavirus outbreak.”
Mr. Vikram Rao reminded Mr. Narendra Modi that the Janata Party cabinet, led by Prime Minister Morarji Desai in 1977, had secured reinstatement with full back wages of all employees who were dismissed during the 1975-77 Emergency regime. “I was also a beneficiary as the Times of India owners had suspended me after my detention in the Baroda central jail and dismissed me when I was moved to the Tihar Central Jail, for opposing the fascist press censorship”, Mr. Rao said.
About victimisation of employees, he said that sixteen employees of News Nation English digital team were sacked on April 10 and told that their dues will be given after a month. The Times of India dismissed its entire Sunday Magazine staff. At least 15 employees of Sakal Times, the Marathi newspaper, were told to resign. Forty-five members of the Quint news site were asked to go on leave without pay. Hamara Mahanagar, Hindi newspaper from Mumbai, was shut down on March 18 due to ‘poor viability’. Magazine Outlook and daily Nai Duniya ceased publication. The Indian Express and Business Standard asked staff to take salary cuts. Bloomberg Quint imposed a salary cut for April.
The IFWJ pleaded with the Prime Minister to help media workers with an insurance cover of Rs. 25 lakhs as done for frontline fighters in the medical profession. It wants immediately status quo, rescinding all dismissal and removal orders, and total compliance with the statutory provisions in regard to employment conditions.
The IFWJ also appealed to the Prime Minister, his Home and Labour Ministers to summon a tripartite meeting immediately to end the looming media crisis which jeopardises the freedom of the press.
The appeal to the Prime Minister was endorsed among others by Vipin Dhuliya, secretary-general and the vice-presidents: V. Pratapchandran (Thiruananthapuram), Upendra Singh Rathod (Jodhpur), Mohan Kumar (Patna) and Gopal Mishra (New Delhi), IFWJ treasurer Ram Yadav (Delhi), president of IFWJ’s Delhi unit Rajiv Ranjan Nag, and the four regional secretaries: P. Anandam (Hyderabad), Ms. Nomita Bora (Guwahati), Mukesh Sheth (Mumbai), Santosh Chaturvedi (Mathura, U.P.) and secretary (women) K. Santhakumari (Bengaluru),
(Secy. Gen.: IFWJ)