I received the following mail from my young colleague Omkar Sapre who has quoted ‘a Sakal victim’. It came as a shock because I am now in Ahmedabad and unconnected with Pune’s media scene. It reminded me of the fate of all of us in The Indian Post in 1990 and The Observer of Business and Politics in 2000 when we were intimated about the closurea without a notice of even a day.
Shock this time is graver, though I am not a victim now, because I could not imagine that Mr Pratap Pawar’s son could do any such a thing. Also because, dear friend and Sakal group Editor Director Anand Agashe is among the management team.
All the best, dear victims.
Unfortunately for you, now there is no working journalists’ trade union to fight such cases. Only you and our peers are to be blamed for this as we had allowed the trade union movement to wither away during last two decades when metro journalists fell for the managements’ baits for fat salaries against ‘contracts’.
It strikes me simply because I, like Anand Agashe, were once upon a time at the forefront of Pune Union of Working Journalists and its apex bodies at the state and national level.
Hi Friends. Do you remember the BiTV lockout? Something worse than that happened on the 30th of November, 2008. Sakaal Times, the English daily brought out in May (renaming the existing Maharashtra Herald) by the Sakal group of Pune (of the Marathi daily Sakal fame) and helmed by wannabe media baron Abhijit Pawar (nephew of NCP leader, Union Minister and former BCCI president Sharad Pawar), suddenly decided to close down its Delhi operations without any prior intimation to any of its employees, making nearly 80 people jobless at one go.
Those impacted are not worthless people – all of them had left secure jobs in respected media houses to join what sounded like an ambitious media venture from one of the most-respected media houses of Maharashtra. The plans were big – following the Pune edition, there will be editions from places like (Navi) Mumbai, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and even a small edition from Delhi. The paper looked impressive – with well thought-out stories and a nice design. "Welcome to the Sakal family. Here all employees are treated like family members. Please visit our Pune headquarters sometime to know how we work like a family," were the golden words from Arun Barera, the CEO of the Sakal Media Group during his interaction with a bunch of us around July-August, when the paper's Delhi office was still in APCA House in NOIDA. APCA, helmed by Dilip Padgaonkar and Anikendra Nath (Badshah) Sen, had taken charge of recruiting people and launching the venture as a BOT project. They did the job nicely and handed over the project to the Sakal group on November 1, 2008. Everything seemed good for all of us.
Then since about a month ago, things began to go wrong – about 8-10 people were asked to leave, but resident editor Dhananjay Sardeshpande called in groups to assure that nobody from the news bureau and features would be touched. "Our plans have got delayed because of the market condition, but we will launch our Delhi edition by the end of this fiscal and our other plans are still there. We need all you people to be part of our vision," he told us. Just about two days ago, one colleague, who called him up, was told by Anand Agashe, director-editor of the newspaper, that whatever rumours were floating around were baseless. He, of course, said there will be a reduction of the number of pages, and a decision would be taken around December 2-3.
Suddenly, in the morning of November 30, a "Notice", actually a print out on a blank sheet of paper (not the company letterhead), signed by an "authorized signatory" whose name or designation was not mentioned, was found pasted on the locked gates of the premises at the 1st floor of Pratap Bhawan on Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, saying the Delhi operations are being wound up. The letter was dated November 30, while the termination notice, with a cheque for part of our salaries for this month and one more month (minus the allowances which are paid against bills submitted) were sent through speed post to all of us individually at our residence addresses from Pune on November 29 (some of us got the mails on December 1 while others are yet to get their individual copies).
The so-called 'Notice' said:
"(For the information of the employees working for Sakaal Times)
Subject – Operations of Sakaal Times at Delhi
The new daily is incurring heavy expenses on Delhi operations resulting into substantial losses to the company. You are aware that this is further compounded by the present serious downtrend in the economy. Due to the dame the circulation and the revenue generation of the newspaper has been seriously affected. Due to this it has become inevitable for the company to restructure its operations. On account of the said restructuring the Editorial work so far carried out at Delhi is no longer required to be continued. As a result, the operations are stopped forthwith and the persons working for Sakaal Times operations are being relieved. The necessary communication has already been sent to the individual employees on their postal address registered with the company. The relevant employees need not attend the office from today onwards.
The work of Magazines and TV will continue after some modifications of the premises for which the same will be closed for few days.
For Sakal Papers limited
There was a rubber stamp of Sakal Papers Limited, New Delhi affixed next to the illegible signature, which looked like an "A".
Agitated employees gathered during the day itself on Sunday, Nov 30, to discuss the matter. Quite astonishingly, colleagues who were working till late night on Nov 29 had no inkling of what was going to happen in the morning. In fact, one colleague was in Rajasthan covering the elections there when the lock out was announced!
The employees, finding that the premises have been locked out with some of their valuable belongings inside (eg, bank pass books, cheque books, etc.) decided to register a complaint with the IP Estate Police Station regarding this. Photo Editor K K Laskar, as the convenor of the committee of Sakaal Times employees formed to fight the sudden lockout, registered the complaint. Till then, nobody who has a say in Sakaal Times – Abhijit Pawar, Anand Agashe, Arun Barera, Dhananjay Sardeshpande, HR director Pradeepkumar Khire – picked up numerous phone calls made by senior journalists who wanted to find out the exact situation. But within one hour of filing the police complaint, Pawar called up Laskar, claiming there had been a "communication gap" and things should not have been done as they have been. He "requested" Laskar to ask all employees to come to office on Monday, December 2, to discuss the matter with a team from Pune.
Almost at the same time, Pawar, Khire, Agashe gave contradictory and false statements to media persons who contacted them on the developments. (From Mint - http://www.livemint.com/2008/
(from IANS - http://in.news.yahoo.com/43/
Where is the mention of the lockout? Can you find another such example of fork-tongued speak?
As we all know, there is a standard procedure for lock outs. Businesses may and do go bad, but the way Sakaal Times has done it, is pure evil. If it reminds everyone of how some Chit Fund Operators vanish after pocketing money of investors, well, you are not at fault. Any ethical company would have taken its employees into confidence, told them that they would have to shut down, and would have given them at least a month's time so that they can look out for alternative jobs. But this is what a 75-year-old media group does.
Please forward this to all media persons you know
This is what an aghast observer wrote to various e-groups:
From: Ram Singh <ramsinghstdelhi@ gmail.com>
Date: Nov 30, 2008 6:37 PM
Subject: Sakaal Times Delhi journalists to move court against lock-out
On Sunday, 30 November 2007, journalists with Sakaal Times in Delhi
were shocked to find the office locked and a lock-out notice put up.
Their anger is not so much about the shut down but that the Sakaal
management did not inform them personally. Their belongings are
inside, they have no idea about salary and compensation, and of course
jobs to look for in an industry no longer booming. Senior Pune
management have switched off their phones. The lock-out is illegal as
they have not followed labour laws. The journalists have formed an
action committee that plans to move court. The nearly 50 journalists
are angry and aghast at such despicable treatment. This is an insult
to journalists all over India who should rise to the occasion and send
their condemnation to Sakal Papers Ltd. This is a paper with deep
pockets thanks to its Marathi print monopoly. Its owner is Ahijit
Pawar, nephew of NCP leader and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar,
whose daughter Supriya Sule is on the board of Sakal Papers Ltd.
Please circulate widely.
(For the information of the employees working for Sakaal Times)
Subject - Operations of Sakaal Times at Delhi
The new daily is incurring heavy expenses on Delhi operations
resulting into substantial losses to the company. You are aware that
this is further compounded by the present serious downtrend in the
economy. Due to the same the circulation and the revenue generation of
the newspaper has been seriously affected. Due to this it has become
inevitable for the company to restructure its operations. On account
of the said restructuring the Editorial work so far carried out at
Delhi is no longer required to be continued. As a result, the
operations are stopped forthwith and the persons working for Sakaal
Times operations are being relieved. The necessary communication has
already been sent to the individual employees on their postal address
registered with the Company. The relevant employees need not attend
the office from today onwards.
The work of Magazines and TV will continue after some modifications of
the premises for which the same will be closed for few days.
For Sakal Papers Limited
[signed and stamped]
Please note that the authorised signatory is not named.
editor, Dhananjay Sardeshpande, had not been coming to office for the
The employees have formed an action committee under the leadership of
Op-Ed pages editor Yogesh Vajpeyi and the Convener is chief
photographer KK Laskar.
Yogesh Vajpeyi - yogesh.vajpeyi@ gmail.com - 9818033223
KK Laskar - k.k.laskar@gmail. com – 9868164433
This is just for information of all media people, because if in future this group tries to hire you, beware and don't fall for its so-called reputation. It's a den of cheats and liers.