The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) today strongly condemned the call for statewide indefinite strike from March 20 by one section of newspaper agents of Kerala, under the auspices of certain political parties.
"While most of the agents are not in favour of a strike of this nature, this minority is threatening them, creating a fear psychosis and is trying to disrupt newspaper distribution. They are also threatening the hawkers, and vehicle owners as well as workers involved in transportation of newspaper," INS President Ashish Bagga said in a press release.
He said, "Though the trade discounts offered by all Malayalam Newspapers are identical, they have excluded some of the political party newspapers like Deshabhimani from the strike, thereby exposing the political motives behind the so-called indefinite strike."
The INS President said the demands raised by those behind the strike include increasing trade discount to 50 per cent of cover price, festival allowance, pension etc, which are quite unjustified. The current financial position of the newspaper organisations does not permit them to accede to these demands, he said.
In this context it is to be noted that the trade discounts offered by Kerala newspapers are higher than that offered by most of the south Indian newspapers, like Rs. 32.50 per copy per month for a copy of daily, and 25 per cent of the cover price for other periodicals which is also sold in large numbers, he said.
Further most of the agents are having agencies of more than one publishing house, and will be engaged in other businesses or jobs, since the distribution gets over before 8 AM, he said.
The INS President said the relation between the publishing house and the agent is not that of employer– employee, but is similar that of a trader who deals with regular household articles for a specified trade discount.
However, the publishing houses of Kerala are giving possible financial assistance in terms of reimbursement of reasonable hospital expenses of agent and his family, accident insurance, etc, he said.
"The indefinite strike is a jolt to the freedom of the press and the liberty of the reader to read newspaper of one’s choice.
"Hence, INS appeals to the public of Kerala to understand the clandestine motives of those behind the strike and support the Newspapers in their attempt to uphold the freedom of the Press. INS also appeals to all the agents to ignore the strike call and to distribute the newspapers without fear or favour," he said.