Preach one thing and do the exact opposite appears to have become the modus operandi of media houses. While zealously reporting the pains of the distressed economic classes, arguing against job cuts and pay cuts, the Indian Express (IE) newspaper is doing exactly that. This flies against the orders of the Government which has said no salary cuts. But IE announced huge salary cuts for their journalists and employees ranging from 10% to 30% claiming that they are hit by COVID-19; many journalists working there say that the management is telling blatant lies. They say IE’s next move will be to cut jobs like last years’ massive retrenchments of Telegraph and Hindustan Times.
As per the letter issued by Indian Express Chief Executive Officer George Varghese (published at the end of this article), the persons getting below Rs.5 lakhs per annum are spared from the salary cuts. 10% salary cut is applicable to those in the Rs.5 lakhs to Rs.7.5 lakh per annum bracket. 15% salary is cut for those getting Rs.7.5 lakhs to Rs.10 lakhs per annum and 20% salary cut will be enforced on those getting Rs.10 lakhs to Rs. 20 lakhs per annum. 25% salary will be cut from those getting between Rs.20 lakhs to Rs.35 lakhs and 30% salary will be cut from those earning above Rs.35 lakhs per annum, said the notice circulated to staffers on April 1, 2020.
“First we thought it was some funny element’s April Fool joke as the date of the message was April 1,” said Indian Express journalists. The majority of the journalists in Indian Express are in the above Rs.7.5 lakh per annum category and all senior journalists are in the above Rs.10 lakh per annum category. In the newspaper industry, Indian Express was considered as a good paymaster for journalists. According to journalists, Editor Raj Kamal Jha’s salary is “way above Rs.20 lakh per month” with all perquisites. They say compared to former Editor Shekhar Gupta’s salary, Jha’s salary is “very very less”. According to journalists, Shekhar Gupta who left the Indian Express in 2014 was enjoying an annual package of Rs.10 crores, which is the highest in the Indian journalism or World journalism scenario.
Shekhar Gupta along with his wife Neelam Jolly still holds 14 percent shares in Indian Express. Indian Express was fully under the control of Shekhar Gupta from the early 2000s, when the owner Viveck Goenka was “out of control or out of the country” due to many personal issues. Many insiders say, those days Indian Express was helped by none other than industrialist Mukesh Ambani and corrupt former Finance Minister P Chidambaram. Many feel that Shekhar Gupta was holding the shares for the help rendered.”
Later after the emergence of Viveck Goenka’s son Anant Goenka in 2013, Shekhar Gupta was shown the door by the Goenka family. Indian Express is having a vast network of more than 200 journalists across India and more than 750 other staff belonging to printing, marketing, circulation, and online departments. Apart from Raj Kamal Jha, Senior Editors like Unni Rajesh Shankar, Ritu Sarin, Vandita Mishra, Rakesh Sinha, Vaidyanathan Iyer, Amitabh Ranjan, and Ajay Shankar are highly paid with more than Rs.5 lakhs to Rs.20 lakhs per month.
The irony of the lengthy letter on salary cut is that it also misquotes the newspaper’s founder Ramnath Goenka, who never did such practices when he was fighting with the Government during the Emergency Days and the Government was squeezing the newspaper with advertisement cuts, say journalists working at Indian Express. They also accuse the management of the “rumour” campaign inside the organization of not getting enough advertisements from the various Governments. “These are baseless. Indian Express gets good advertisements from both Central and all State Governments. The management found in Corona a convenient excuse,” they said, accusing the Goenka family, the major shareholders of Indian Express, adding that after the exit of Shekhar Gupta, the current top Editors have no spine to take on the management.
The full letter of Indian Express CEO on Salary cut due to COVID-19 is published below: