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What ails media?

The first “victim” of Majithia Wage Board is here. The closure of a vernacular daily, simultaneously published from Guwahati and Shillong, is a clear indication of the “survival of the fittest” in today’s competitive era. The closure of the daily on April 1st went viral all over the country in the public domain as its jobless employees with their mouths tied-up with black scarf at Guwahati Press Club in protest against the decision of the management and flashing of their photographs is the sordid tale of a loss making entity – reasoned by its management. But what is comparatively relieving is that the management has compensated the affected employees with two months emoluments, although the demand was for more months, which was otherwise not provided by the Sarada Group to its employees when the group’s vernacular daily Sakalbela and English daily Seven Sisters’ Post were closed down following its collapse. But allegations by the affected employees remains unanswered in the recent case that less than a week time was given to close down this vernacular daily and the employees to look for alternative avenues.  

 However, the moot reason behind this saga is the recent verdict pronounced by the Supreme Court of India regarding implementation of Majithia Wage Board in print media houses, which is giving sleepless nights to their managements. The implementation of wage board will render many more jobless in days and months to come since a majority of the media houses in the state and region are not in any position to shelve out three times salaries that their employees are bagging now. Therefore the smaller players, will face the heat more than the affluent ones. But the going is not that easy. While discussing the wage board and its after-effects on print media houses this author was told by a media house baron from the region that despite the flow of advertisements it would be a huge task to maintain business. The owner also said that sustainability will be crucial while hinting employee strength has to be bare minimum. So, all those who have recently joined or those who are not enjoying any pay-scale benefits might face the axe though the regular permanent ones too may not take things for granted, is the warning coming forward.

 There are few print media organizations in this region which are generating good revenues without much effort because they enjoy the advantage of starting first. There aren’t any sound competitors who can challenge their existence and so their managements do not worry much because of the “monopoly”. But this vision has changed immediately after the Supreme Court of India verdict as they now see that even this monopoly may not be of much help in the long run with the future costs involved. Having said this does not mean in any way that the journalists and non-journalists should not get their rightful dues. The scene is such that managements who were unwilling to pay their employees well are today literally forced to do so.

 The recent closure episode also raises certain pertinent questions. It is a known fact that media houses in the northeast region are not good paymasters. That is the reason why a scribe is seen reporting for a number of dailies at a time. Well if you pay peanuts then it will fetch hoppers. The meagre stipends cannot maintain exclusivity as scribes are forced to hunt multiple dailies to maintain their livelihood. They keep changing from one organization to another and stops where the buck is comparatively better. Such hopping from one organization to another, as seen here, is otherwise not seen in the national print media houses, as this author have come to know in his interaction with many. A South India based journalist working in a local daily there said that the local dailies operating in that region pay their workforce handsomely according to the present day industry standards. 

Lack of good pay is also preventing media graduates taking up media jobs in Meghalaya and region. Non-media graduates join for a certain period of time and shifts immediately when they get better opportunities elsewhere. The “inability” or “reluctance” of the management to pay well is also contributing to this mess whereas journalism is affecting dearly on the other hand. The mediocre journalism here cannot be uplifted with peanuts and “housewife bosses” creating “domestic extensions”. This is the reason why we don’t get to see any sting operations or investigative journalism. But the scene is not that hopeless as there are media houses in the region, which pay their employees well and according to the wage board but then their number is, as the Americans say, “skin of a peanut”. Their professional way of functioning sets precedence for their counterparts to imbibe. Though good pay is a prerequisite for any organization to survive with the right set of people, it is also imperative that the management have a professional role only in the functioning of the organization. In this context, one can see how South India based Malayala Manorama – the largest media house in the country – is functioning. Given its size and might, if one follows the way this organization has reached the pinnacle is because the management had always maintained minimum professional say in the functioning of the organization. 

On the impact of the wage board, it is speculated that it will have a collateral damage on the capacity of the media houses to pay their employees here. They fear that their incapacity to pay their employees as per the recommendation of the board will drive them out of business. As a result there will be very few competitors and monopoly will take over. The vernacular daily in question has cited reasons for the closure as “due to reasons beyond its control”. Well what is intriguing is that the daily was started not for money-making venture but as a social service for its targeted readers whereas the reason put forth according to various media reports is that the management showing acute financial crisis, while calling for social media audit by media employees’ federation in Assam. So, rhetoric like not-for-money-making actually goes well with NGOs and not a vibrant organization like media. Just going by the etymological meaning of the term can be really dangerous and like “taking the words of politicians at face value”. There are also discussions that the Supreme Court of India verdict will serve as a deterrent to the ploys adopted by printed media houses to run various offshoots out of the parent edition to deceive tax authorities. This, they say, will now stop for good since poor employees are often at the receiving end in closure cases such as the present one.

 What is rather alarming is that there has been not a word of condemnation from the media fraternity, their associations and bodies that are in existence for their welfare here in Meghalaya. Is it because the media house in question is a Bengali daily or are their stoic silence is an indication that they have started looking a media entity by their vernacularism? Not condemning a serious issue where many rendered jobless is indeed condemnable and perhaps it is time that the media fraternity from Meghalaya take a lesson or two from their Assam counterpart where they don’t react on the basis of the language of a daily but truly on the basis of it collectively being the fourth pillar of democracy. Will the media fraternity here have resorted to the same silence had the affected daily been English, Khasi, Garo or other regional languages in the northeast? When crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey was murdered in broad daylight in Mumbai few years back from now the brutal killing was equally condemned here in Shillong whereas a local vernacular daily closed down its shop and there is not even a murmur. Well, certainly as an educationist after hearing the news of the closure of this daily here said that she has never heard about “silent journalism” in media. Media critics points out that the media fraternity and associations / bodies should have sent the right signal by raising their concern on this issue if not for the affected employees rather for themselves – who too are associated with some media houses – because there is no guarantee that this will not befall upon them in the near future with the unfolding of events now. This, they say, will also send a strong signal to the unilateral decisions taken by management towards closure of dailies.

However, is there a way out despite the Supreme Court verdict? Well media analysts are of the opinion that a union government constituted wage board for privately owned print media houses sounds anachronistic and it could also be an attempt to muzzle the press that often hits headlines. It would be no surprise if another daily tomorrow meets the same fate because given the plethora of competitors in this region it is going to be as I have said “survival of the fittest”.

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Rajiv Roy's picture

Shillong

Comments

Suhrid's picture

Hi Rajiv,Your views are thought-provoking. I hail from Assam and based in Pune - I have worked for newspapers like Times of India, The New Indian Express, MiD Day in Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune and can tell you that things are a lot better but given the prevailing inflation I would stop short of calling it' handsome' salaries -- in print media be it Delhi, Mumbai or other metro everything stops after 40k, 50k for an experienced journo which is not just enought surviving in a metro given the house rents are exorbitant. In the North East if you work for The Assam Tribune or become a correspondent for a national media houses then u r better off........................otherwise it's a waste of time being a journalist in North East you got to have other earning avenues to fall back on otherwise it is a herculean task to lead a good life by working as a journo cheers Suhrid
Rajiv Roy's picture

Thanks Suhrid for your valuable comments. May be I should have used the word “better” instead of “handsome”. Nonetheless, I reckon you are still better than majority of the scribes here in the northeast region. Just imagine the peanuts on which they are literally surviving here along with the overhead inflation. Will these scribes “hopping experience” fetch better opportunities elsewhere? You are spot on when you said one is better off working as a correspondent for The Assam Tribune or for national media houses in this region and I see many of them comparatively better than the rest. But the moot question remains do the local journalists have no future here? What is the future of journalism as a profession? Hope the Wage Board, minus job cuts, is the answer to all these.

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AGP, BJP field chargesheeted candidate: Gogoi

28 Mar 2009 - 7:50pm | editor
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi charged the Opposition AGP and BJP with fielding a charge-sheeted candidate to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. Addressing the reporters at a function on Saturday, Gogoi said he would name the candidate in question only if both the parties deny.

The Chief Minister observed that the political parties talk of Bangladeshi influx only in the run up to the polls and forget it as soon as they manage to get elected. He said it was his government which took the initiatives to update the national registrar of citizens.

Gogoi maintained that he was Rajiv Gandhi, who signed the Assam Accord which include IIT, Bogeebel bridhe, Kalakhsetra, gas cracker along with two central universities.

He confident that people will vote for Congress as they are aware of his government’s good performance.

Thus, he accused AGP and BJP of not done enough for Assam.

In yet another development, BJP leader from Jorhat Dayananda Borgohain joined the Congress in the function organized at the Rajiv Bhawan. Borgohain, the BJP candidate in Jorhat in the last Lok Sabha poll stood second with more than one and a half lakh voters.

No New Year Celebration in Mumbai

1 Jan 2009 - 7:29pm | Chinmay Chakravarty
Mumbai the dream city. Mumbai the glmour den. Mumbai the fashion hub. And yet, no raucous parties to bring in the New Year 2009.



Mumbaikars (residents of Mumbai) have remained true to their new-found awareness and their anger against terror and to their commitment for a terror free era starting with 2009. What had so far been described as the 'spirit of Mumbai' is proved to be a myth as Mumbaikars no longer are ready to carry on with the pathetic lack of security to common people.



After the 26/11 terror strike the anger of Mumbaikars had erupted into the streets and spread to other parts of India. The media has done a great job by graphically showing the tremendous public outbirst that led to political turmoil with the fall of govenments and politicians. The anger first shown in Guwahati post 30/10 was not highlighted by the media, but it did not go in vain. Mumbai has given it global dimensions.



Except for few stray crackers going off Mumbai streets reamined quiet, the traffic was normal and flowing, the hotels had no queues and the attendence on the beaches was just ordinary. Instead, there were prayer meetings and good will get-togethers with most of the residents preferring to stay indoors and usher in the new year in a personal way.



This is entirely a new face of Mumbai that needs to be considered seriously.



***

Assam calls for a human response

31 Aug 2012 - 8:03pm | editor

Unable to get back to their homes, many of the people displaced by the floods and the conflict in Assam are staying in overcrowded camps with no access to basic amenities like drinking water and sanitation. Unhygienic conditions and lack of electricity has only made their plight worse.


Over 4 lakh people in Assam probably never ever imagined that their lives would one day be like this. For over 40 days, children have not attended school, not eaten proper food and have not moved out of the camp area.


While flood affected people continue to stay on “platform” (mound of land) as they call it, conflict impacted people have taken shelter in relief camps. Nearly three and half months (70 days) have passed but the situation has not eased out. The conflict has displaced people in the districts of Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Chirang, Bongaigaon where as floods have affected the lives of people living in Sonitpur, Morigaon and Nowgaon districts.


Flood is an old story in this part of North Eastern India: sometimes the river Brahmaputra is more furious than in the previous years. Like this year which is being described as the worst floods in the decade. From 1992 the villagers have lost their homes many times yet these villagers -- largely Muslims -- continue to live by the river side as it is their lifeline and they cannot go anywhere else. Ethnic conflict has added to the woes of the displaced people in Assam. Despite every effort of government and non-government organizations normalcy is yet to return to the State.


Flood survivors as well as conflict affected are struggling to make both ends meet in the relief camps. Different agencies of the State including non-government organizations are trying to provide support to flood affected people and provide immediate relief but all that is not enough. The stagnant water, rubble of demolished houses, garbage and stench of mud, cattle and human waste doesn’t make it pleasant surroundings to live in. The situation is even worse in the relief camps where the conflict affected are staying. Here, people are living under constant fear of attacks and under the protection of CRPF. In many areas, men spent sleepless nights outside the camps to take care of women inside the camps.


The children have not attended school for months, not eaten proper food and have not moved out of the camp area. It’s getting worst day by day.


Oxfam India, a rights based organization working in India for 61 years, has been working closely with the flood and conflict victims to provide humanitarian assistance to them and help them rebuild their lives one more time. Oxfam India has initiated its work in three worst flood affected districts including Sonitpur, Morigaon, Nowgaon and with people staying in relief camps due to conflict in Chirang and Kokrajhar.


There is an urgent need for drinking water, emergency shelter, hygiene and sanitation, private cubicles for bathing, hygiene kits for women etc.


We can provide comfort to them by addressing the urgent need for water, sanitation and hygiene support in the relief camps. They are hopeful, will you help us fulfilling it.



Oxfam India is there, responding to these urgent needs. With your support we will:





  • Provide clean, safe drinking water by building or repairing water sources.

  • Rehabilitate water and sanitation facilities in the camps.

  • Help people in the camps to have appropriate emergency shelter especially women and children.

  • Provide safe sanitation and hygiene conditions in the camps especially women and children.








Lost Home 17 Times Help him build it the 18th time



“I first lived in Gagolmari Village. After it was inundated I went to Pholiamari and from there to Barjan Pahar and then to Kariguri village which was like a reserve forest located on a height due to clay deposits. I made a house and lived there. But even that house couldn’t bear water and I had to be on move again. I kept on moving from one place to another as the river kept eroding and eventually reached Simultala. In the whole process of shifting I had to build my house 18 times,'' he says.


"We have managed to somehow collect our lives and assembled at the relief camp. We received tarpaulin sheets, buckets and a few soaps from Oxfam India. The government gave us rice and lentils at the rate of 1kg per household, three times in 45 days. This is not enough. Our paddy and whatever we cultivated are gone. We are doing odd jobs to make a living," says Ruh'ul Ameen, who has lost his home to the Brahmaputra 18 times between 19992 and 2012.


There are many like Ruh'ul who have been running from the ravaging Brahmaputra. Simultala was the name given by people who took to living by an old Simul tree. People from eight revenue villages which were lost to the Brahmaputra now live at Simultala- a non revenue village -- while a few are scattered around. The extent of damage is severe and so is the displacement of human lives. Basic amenities are scarce and water unsafe. General health of the population is affected even as the water has not yet receded.



Support Ruh’ul build his house again……



Snippets



In Sonitpur district where Oxfam India is responding for the first time, people are moving from the relief camps in schools to make-shift homes along the embankment. "There is no land. The Brahmaputra has taken everything away. There's no land to cultivate. People work as day laborers and live on the embankment itself. Almost 40-50 villages have disappeared most were issued land pattas while few had no pattas. Schools, colleges, buildings, madarsas, mosques, hospitals, markets; all are under water," says Abdul Hasheem, Suaguri Gaon Panchayat under Biswanath Chariali Development Block and Revenue Circle, Tezpur.



MONEY CANT BUY YOU EVERYTHING BUT IT CERTAINLY HELPS!




Extend support not only by contributing financially but also circulating the news widely. Hundreds of thousands people are looking up to you.








Support us in providing food, water, sanitation and shelter to Assam flood survivors.....





We are reaching out to



  • 1,10,400 flood and conflict affected people to enable them to get access to safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and emergency shelter.

  • At least 50 per cent women of 3,000 vulnerable households (16,200 population) will benefit from improved income through cash transfer support

  • 9000 households take preventive measures for safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases.

  • Providing hygiene kits to 4500 households, including mosquito nets.

  • Constructing segregated communal bathing cubicles for women and children.

  • Providing buckets for water storage.



ACT NOW, DONATE



Help us to:






  • Provide safe drinking water

  • Provide hygiene sanitation

  • Provide shelter and household support to displaced people

  • Provide emergency food and livelihood






















Amount



Support



Rs. 5000



Shelter support for 5 families



Rs. 3000



Hygiene and Sanitation for 3 families



Rs. 2400



Drinking water for 5 families










Assam in Crisis!




Oxfam India extends humanitarian assistance to people displaced by the conflict in Assam


Oxfam India has decided to extend its humanitarian assistance to people displaced by the conflict in Assam who are staying in the relief camps and who are in urgent need of water, sanitation and hygiene support. This is in addition to the humanitarian assistance that it has already been providing to the flood survivors in the three districts of Morigaon, Sonitpur and Naugaon.


``The North-Eastern state of Assam is reeling under the impact of “twin disasters'' -- even as the flood survivors are struggling to make both ends meet in the relief camps, lakhs of people have been displaced by the conflict in the State,'' says Nisha Agrawal, CEO, Oxfam India, adding : ``we have been reaching out to the flood survivors since July providing them with humanitarian assistance in the camps. Now we have decided to reach out to the people affected by conflict as well.''


While the floods in the State -- described as the worst in the past decade -- have affected over 20 lakh people, another 4 lakh have been displaced due to conflict. The flood survivors and people affected by conflict are staying in the relief camps spread across the different districts in the State where there is urgent need for water, sanitation and hygiene support. Lack of these is leading to death and disease.


Oxfam India assessment in Kokrajhar and Chirang has revealed that many of the camps where people displaced by the conflict are staying are overcrowded, clean drinking water is not available and people are defecating in the open increasing the chances of outbreak of disease. Based on the assessment, Oxfam India has decided to reach out, to start with, to 4000 households in Kokarajhar and Chirang districts.


As part of its relief package, Oxfam India is reaching out to the affected population in the relief camps to provide clean, safe drinking water by building or repairing water sources, rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities in the camps, help people in the camps to have appropriate emergency shelter especially women and children and provide safe sanitation and hygiene conditions in the camps especially for woman and children.



In so far as the floods are concerned, Oxfam India has already been providing vital humanitarian support to 80,400 worst affected populations (12,000 households) in the flood affected Morigaon, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Jorhat and Golaghat districts of Assam. The current first phase of the response programme (phase one) is reaching out to 50,000 people (8,000 households) in Morigaon, Sonitpur and Nagaon districts while Oxfam India aims to reach out to 30,000 population (4000 households) in the second phase of its response programme.


Oxfam India is working closely with its two local partners in Assam, Morigaon Mahila Mehfil (MMM) in Morigaon and Nagaon districts and Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis (PAJHRA) in Sonitpur district covering approximately 40 villages within 3 districts of Assam.


Oxfam is working on supplying clean water and sanitation to nearly 80,400 people affected by the recent flooding. It is also assisting in providing clean potable water to two of the worst affected districts of Morigaon and Sonitpur districts. Oxfam also has plans to help people get access to food and income and is developing projects to enable people to earn an immediate income to tide over the present crisis, in addition to plans to provide shelter repair assistance to households who have completely lost their homes.




About Oxfam India



Oxfam is marking its 61st year in India this year (2012). In 1951, Oxfam Great Britain came to India during the Bihar famine to launch its first full scale humanitarian response in a developing country. Over the past 61 years, Oxfam has supported the growth of many civil society organizations across the length and breadth of the country.


In 2008, all Oxfams came together to form Oxfam India. Oxfam India, a fully independent Indian organization (with Indian staff and an Indian Board) is a member of a global confederation of 17 Oxfams. Oxfam India is now registered as a Company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 (bearing corporate identity number U74999DL2004NPL131340).


The Oxfams are rights-based organizations that fight poverty and injustice by linking grassroots programming (through partner NGOs) to local, national and global advocacy and policy-making. All of Oxfam’s work is framed by our commitment to five broad rights-based aims: the right to a sustainable livelihood, the right to basic social services, the right to life and security, the right to be heard and the right to equality: gender and diversity.


Oxfam India's vision is to create a more equal, just, and sustainable world. The overarching vision of Oxfam India is ``right to life with dignity for all‘‘. Oxfam India will fulfil its vision by empowering the poor and marginalized to demand their rights, engaging the non poor to become active and supportive citizens, advocating for an effective and accountable state and making markets work for poor and marginalized people.


Oxfam India works in partnership with over 180 grassroots NGOs to address root causes of poverty and injustice in the four areas of 1) Economic Justice, 2) Essential Services, 3) Gender Justice and 4), Humanitarian Response and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Oxfam India’s program is focused on seven States – Assam, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand – and four social groups – Dalits, tribals, Muslims, and women.



For details log on www.oxfamindia.org