New Delhi: Sixty-one people at the New Delhi office of Sakaal Times, an English daily published by the Pune-based Sakaal Media Group, may be the first newsroom casualties of the ambitious expansion some groups undertook during a five-year media boom.
The group has decided to shut the Delhi offices and terminate the services of the 61 reporters, editors, photographers and infographists, and has given up its ambition of making it a multi-edition daily newspaper.
Staffers said they were shocked to find the daily’s Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg office locked on Sunday, with a notice outside explaining that because of mounting losses, the company was closing the Delhi operation.
“The new daily is incurring heavy expenses in Delhi operations, resulting in substantial losses to the company. You are aware that this is further compounded by the present serious downtrend in the economy…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 notice, signed by an unnamed “authorized signatory”, read.
“All the work was going on smoothly till yesterday (Saturday), and today when we came in, this is what we saw,” said a journalist, who just found out he had lost his job and didn’t want to be identified.
Abhijit Pawar, managing director of the 76-year-old Sakaal Media Group, said staffers had been informed earlier. “It has just been brought to my attention that the communication hadn’t reached everyone, and I’m sorry if that is the case. I have been told that a communication had been made informally to senior members of the staff in Delhi and it was supposed to have reached everyone. Everyone is being adequately compensated,” Pawar added. He said the compensation would be based on contractual terms.
Late on Sunday evening, the journalists formed an action committee to protest against the way in which they had been fired and to demand more compensation.
“We have filed a police complaint against this lockout, tomorrow (Monday) we will be consulting lawyers to mull appropriate legal action, we are meeting the Delhi Union of Journalists to mobilize all journalists and we will be meeting the minister for information and broadcasting,” said K.K. Laskar, who was chief photographer at the daily and is convener of the action committee. He denied that staffers had been informed in advance about the closure.