It is not often that a journalist has the opportunity to interview a disaffected employee—in this instance, another journalist—who is willing to go on record with complaints against his employers, and does so while he is still on the premises of his workplace. Rarer still is finding more than one member of the workforce willing to make such disclosures. A pragmatic approach would perhaps have prompted more prudence. After all, these are not easy times for journalists.
But, armed with the hope that the Supreme Court will stand by the employees of Dainik Jagran—one of the most widely read Hindi dailies in India—Ratan Bhushan, the fifty-two-year-old deputy news editor of the newspaper has become fearless. Bhushan started his journalistic career at a local Hindi newspaper way back in 1989 on a paltry three-figure salary. Twenty-six years later, he is drawing a little more than Rs 30,000. His annual increment has been a meagre Rs 200 for the last several years. “Management loyalists, sneaks and those doing dirty work for the owners and editors get ten times that amount annually,” he alleged.
Anand Prakash, the publication's thirty-five year old circulation manager, who joined Jagran’s Noida office ten years ago on a princely salary of Rs 6,500 per month, has not been so lucky. When Prakash joined Jagran in 2005, the total circulation figure of the publication in the Delhi-NCR region was around 22,000. Prakash told me that this figure stands at 4.5 lakhs today. In stark contrast, his salary has increased to only around Rs 12,000—at least Rs 3000 less than the salary of a Class 4 employee at a central university—in the course of the last decade. Voicing his distress at the disparity, he asked, “Don’t I have any contribution towards this growth? Have I also not put my blood and sweat towards this?”
Bhushan and Prakash told me that they are among 350 out of a total of 1500 employees—a figure that was disputed by Nitendra Srivastava, the general manager of Dainik Jagran who told me that there are only 800—from Jagran’s Noida office, both journalists and non-journalists, who slapped contempt proceedings against their organisation in June 2014. The proceedings were initiated before the Supreme Court for non-implementation of the Majithia Board, which was formed to review the remuneration of employees in print publications and was headed by the chairman of National Wage Boards for Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees, Justice GR Majithia.
The GR Majithia-led Wage Board—the seventh such wage board till date—established under the Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees Act 1955, broadly made three relevant recommendations. First, basing itself on the 6th Pay Commission, it categorised newspapers into eight categories with Class 1—the category to which Jagran belongs—being the topmost with annual revenues in excess of Rs 1000 crore. Second, it borrowed the concept of variable pay from the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission which included a component of an employee's fixed pay that would typically vary with the employee or the company's performance, to ensure that the wages of newspaper employees were on par with the employees of other sectors. It suggested that a 35 percent variable pay was to be added to the basic salary, resulting in a corresponding increase in provident fund and gratuity. Finally, it also included a revised rate for a dearness allowance to be computed on the basis of the average all-India Consumer Price Index Number for Industrial Workers.