Media

In Appeal, Former Employees Urge EPW Not to Cut Salaries, Lay Off Staff

The magazine's financial condition cannot be improved by "wielding an axe on the livelihoods of EPW’s dedicated staff", the appeal says.

New Delhi: Former employees of the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) have written to Sameeksha Trust, the charitable trust that publishes the journal, to reconsider cutting the salaries of its employees and laying staff members. The appeal acknowledges that the pandemic may have strained the financial condition of the magazine, but says it cannot be improved by “wielding an axe on the livelihoods of EPW’s dedicated staff”.

It is signed, among others, by former editor Rammanohar Reddy, former senior assistant editor Abhishek Shaw, former executive editor Aniket Alam, former deputy editor Bernard D’Mello, former consulting editor Kalpana Sharma and former digital editor Subhash Rai. The list of signatories includes civil society members.

Writing to the Sameeksha Trust as “members of the wider EPW Community”, the signatories said they have learnt that a salary cut of between 25-40% has been imposed on all staff of EPW. “We also learn that the entire eight-member team of Engage, the digital unit, has been given a month’s notice and asked to leave.” they said.

These steps that could eventually lead to the “destruction” of a “very valuable and world-renowned institution that has been built up over more than half a century”, the signatories said.

Noting that the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have “laid waste to livelihoods and destroyed enterprises”, they said media employers and boards of management were expected to go the extra mile to support their staff, but very few have done so. “While these are admittedly difficult times for commercial enterprises, we would expect a public charitable trust like the Sameeksha Trust to do all it can to act differently,” the appeal says.

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They said EPW has always been an “open, participative and non-hierarchical structure, yet, “this time we learn that neither the trustees of Sameeksha Trust nor the Editor (who has traditionally have been in charge of the institution) nor the senior management (finance) of EPW cared to share the information and analysis of the finances with the staff, nor sought their views and suggestions for dealing with the current situation, nor sat down and explained the situation before taking the drastic decisions that they have”.

The signatories urged the Trust to engage with all members of the staff and “reach a decision on the best way forward in the short and medium-term”. “It is not too late to do so now,” they said, adding, “We are aware that some difficult decisions may have to be taken but the staff are sure to participate fully if it is a collective decision. EPW is as much theirs as that of its readers, writers and advertisers.”

“We are also aware that in recent years there has been a steady worsening of the financial situation. Any decision to revive EPW must be based on a holistic view of the quality and type of content, readership, advertising and mobilising other sources of finance. It cannot be based on wielding an axe on the livelihoods of EPW’s dedicated staff,” the appeal says.

The complete text of the appeal has been reproduced below.

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An Appeal to the Sameeksha Trust

We write to you as members of the wider EPW Community to urge you not to take steps that could eventually lead to the destruction of a very valuable and world-renowned institution that has been built up over more than half a century.

The pandemic has laid waste to livelihoods and destroyed enterprises. The media in India has been no exception. It has been the responsibility of employers and boards of management to go the extra mile to support their staff, but very few have done so. While these are admittedly difficult times for commercial enterprises, we would expect a public charitable trust like the Sameeksha Trust to do all it can to act differently.

Yet, we are dismayed to learn that a salary cut of between 25% to 40% has been imposed on all staff of EPW. We also learn that the entire eight-member team of Engage, the digital unit, has been given a month’s notice and asked to leave.

The financial condition of Sameeksha Trust must be fragile and these measures are supposedly meant to deal with a crisis. However, we would like to point out that EPW has stood out as a media institution not just for its independent views but for how the institution has been run. An open, participative and non-hierarchical structure – to the extent possible – has been a feature of EPW for decades. Yet, this time we learn that neither the trustees of Sameeksha Trust nor the Editor (who has traditionally have been in charge of the institution) nor the senior management (finance) of EPW cared to share the information and analysis of the finances with the staff, nor sought their views and suggestions for dealing with the current situation, nor sat down and explained the situation before taking the drastic decisions that they have.

“How a decision is taken is as important as the nature of the decision”. A principle that has underlined much of EPW’s functioning has been so openly and so easily violated in this decision. The Sameeksha Trust has failed to practice what EPW preaches on its pages.

We would also like to remind the trustees that it is the administrative and editorial staff of EPW as much as its authors who have made the institution what it is or was. They have always shown an extraordinary level of commitment to produce the Weekly regularly, always at salary levels that are far less than the media average. To treat them so shabbily now speaks poorly of the trustees of Sameeksha Trust as also the senior editors/managers of EPW. We surely do not have to point out the effect on morale and commitment of such a decision taken in an arbitrary manner in an institution known for open decision-making.

We urge the Sameeksha Trust to engage with all members of the staff of EPW and reach a decision on the best way forward in the short and medium-term. It is not too late to do so now. We are aware that some difficult decisions may have to be taken but the staff are sure to participate fully if it is a collective decision. EPW is as much theirs as that of its readers, writers and advertisers.

We are also aware that in recent years there has been a steady worsening of the financial situation. Any decision to revive EPW must be based on a holistic view of the quality and type of content, readership, advertising and mobilising other sources of finance. It cannot be based on wielding an axe on the livelihoods of EPW’s dedicated staff.

We would like to point out that this is not the first time the trustees of the Sameeksha Trust have fallen short of the governance standards set for themselves. Over the past few years, the Trust has acted with poor wisdom and judgement on more than one occasion. The perceived decline in recent years in the quality of EPW’s content, a fall in professionalism in dealing with writers and a weakening of internal democratic functioning – all of which have contributed to the larger deterioration — can be laid at the door of the trustees of Sameeksha Trust. The termination of the Engage team also reflects poorly on the oversight abilities of the trustees. The Engage unit was to be run wholly by EPW after the 3-year grant that helped start it ran out. Clearly the trust did not use the three years to prepare for this eventuality.

EPW has always stood out for what an independent non-commercial endeavour can achieve with dedication. But from the way the trustees and the senior editors have overseen EPW in recent months and years, we are looking at a very grim future. They can’t allow an institution that has played such a major role since 1949 in education, dissemination of information, and policy debates, to go to seed.

We urge the trustees to take remedial action in an open manner to deal with the immediate situation and engage in broader consultations to rescue and revive EPW. A collapse of EPW now, in these troubled times, will suggest an extinguishing of hope.

Abhishek Shaw (Senior Assistant Editor, 2013-18)
Aniket Alam (Executive Editor, 2009-16)
Bernard D’Mello (Deputy Editor, 2005-18)
Kalpana Sharma (Consulting Editor, 2011-18)
Rammanohar Reddy (Editor, 2004-16)
Subhash Rai (Digital Editor, 2009-13)
Subhash Rai (Digital Editor, 2009-13)
Anu Kumar, Assistant Editor, EPW (2000-08)
Ashima Sood, Senior Assistant Editor, EPW (2009-12)
Kaushik Dasgupta, Chief Copy Editor, EPW (2015-2016)
Preeti Sampat, Assistant Editor, EPW (2007)
Sangeeta Ghosh, Assistant Editor, EPW (2016-2018)
Urvi Desai, Editorial Assistant, EPW (2011-12)
K. Vijay Kumar, General Manager, EPW (1995-2016) and Publisher, EPW (2004-16)

Abhijit Sen, Professor (retired), JNU
Achin Chakraborty, Director, IDSK, Kolkata
Ajay Gudavarthy, CPS, JNU
Ajit Karnik, Former Professor and Director, Dept. Of Economics, University of Mumbai.
Akshay Mukul, Author and Journalist
Alex M Thomas, faculty, Azim Premji University
Amit Misra, Professor, CDRI, Lucknow
Anamitra Roychowdhury, JNU
Anandhi S, Professor, MIDS
Anish Vanaik, OP Jindal Global University
Anjali Mody, Journalist
Anjana Thampi, faculty, O P Jindal University
Ankur Sarin, Professor, IIM Ahmedabad
Antara Dev Sen, Editor, The Little Magazine
Aparajay, Research Associate, IIT Tirupati
Archana Prasad, Professor, JNU
Arindam Banerjee, Ambedkar University, Delhi
Arvind Krishnaswamy, Mumbai
Ashok Nag, Advisor RBI, (retd)
Avinash Kumar, JNU
Ayesha Kidwai, Professor, JNU
B. S. Butola, JNU
Bansidhar Pradhan, JNU
Bhim Reddy, Fellow, IHD, Delhi
C. Saratchand, Satyawati College, Delhi University
Chandan Mukherjee, Professor, AUD
Chirashree Das Gupta, JNU
C P Chandrasekhar, retired, JNU
Dev Nathan, Visiting Professor, IHD
G Arunima, Professor, JNU
Gautam Mody, General Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative
Geeta Kapur, Art Writer, Delhi
Himanshu, Professor, JNU
Indranil Chowdhury, PGDAV College, Delhi University
Indu Chandrasekhar, Tulika Books
Ishan Anand, faculty, O P Jindal University
Itty Abraham, National University Singapore
Jayati Ghosh, Professor, JNU
J Krishnamurty, Visiting Professor, IHD
Jayan Jose Thomas, IIT Delhi
Jyoti Punwani, Freelance Journalist, Mumbai
K.K. Kailash, Professor, University of Hyderabad
Krishna Prasad, former Editor-in-Chief, Outlook
Kunal Shankar, former Journalist, Frontline
Maithreyi Krishnaraj, Researcher, Gender Studies, Professor (retired) SNDT
Manjari Katju, Professor, University of Hyderabad
Mihir Shah, Former Member, Planning Commission
Mritiunjoy Mohanty, Professor, IIM-C
N. Ramagopal, Professor, Annamalai University
Nagraj Adve, Writer and Activist
Nandan Nawn, TERI School of Advanced Studies
Navdeep Mathur, Professor, IIM Ahmedabad
Neera Chandhoke, retired Professor, University of Delhi
Nelson Mandela S, Research Fellow, Azim Premji University
Nirmalya Choudhury, Senior Researcher, Vikas Anvesh Foundation, Pune.
Nivedita Menon, Professor, JNU
Padmaja Shaw, Professor (retired), Osmania University
Partha Ray, Professor, IIM Calcutta
Parthapratim Pal, IIM Calcutta
Persis Ginwala, Ahmedabad
Prabir Purkayastha, NewsClick.in
Pradeep Shinde, JNU
Prasenjit Bose, Political Activist, Kolkata
Pronab Sen, Programme Director, International Growth Centre
P S Vijayshankar, Samaj Pragati Sahyog, MP
Pulin B. Nayak, Professor (retd), Delhi School of Economics
R. Nagaraj, Professor, IGIDR
Rajarshi Dasgupta, JNU
Rajat Datta, Professor, JNU
Rakesh Basant, Professor, IIM-A
Ranjini Mazumdar, Professor, JNU
Ravi Vasudevan, Professor, CSDS
Reetika Khera, Prof, IIT Delhi
Ritambhara Shastri,
Ritu Dewan, Professor (retired), Mumbai School of Economics, Mumbai University
Rohin Anhal, Independent Researcher and Former Assistant Professor, Faculty of Economics, SAU
Rohit Azad, CESP, JNU
Romar Correa, retired Reserve Bank of India Professor of Economics, Mumbai University
Sadanand Menon, Writer and Critic
Sagari R. Ramdas, Food Sovereignty Alliance
Sanjib Baruah, Professor, Bard College, New York
Saradindu Bhaduri, JNU
Satyaki Roy, ISID, New Delhi
Saugata Bhaduri, PRofessor, JNU
Shantanu De Roy, TERI School of Advanced Studies
Sudha Narayanan, Professor, IGIDR
Sukumar Muralidharan, former journalist, Frontline
Surajit Mazumdar, Professor, JNU
Syed Akhtar Husain, Professor, JNU
Tanvir Aeijaz, Ramjas College, Delhi University
Tejaswini Niranjana, Writer and Academic
Udaya Kumar, Professor, JNU
V. Krishna Ananth, Associate Professor, Sikkim University
Vanita Nayak Mukherjee, Independent Researcher and Consultant on Women’s Rights.
Vikas Rawal, Professor, JNU
Vinay Lal, Professor, UCLA
Vivan Sundaram, Artist, Delhi
Xonxoi Barbora, Guwahati
Zico Dasgupta, Azim Premji University
Zoya Hasan, Professor Emerita, JNU