Controversial fake-news-peddling website Quint’s owner Raghav Bahl has devised an uncouth retrenchment method which could be illegal. On Monday, blaming Corona pandemic, he issued notice to many staffers that from April 15 onwards, they were being put on “furlough” indefinitely. The notice says that this “forced leave – furlough” is without salary. And at the end of the letter, Bahl has the audacity to tell the staffers to write for other organizations on a “freelance” basis during the furlough period.
“And now, we are faced with a truly unprecedented situation. First, there is a massive health crisis. An illness with no cure, that even Europe and the US are struggling to cope with. Over the next few weeks, whether India will fare poorly in the face of COVID-19, or miraculously survive, no one can say right now. Second, the scale of shutdown and lockdown that #CoronaPandemic has prompted, puts us all in the eye of an economic storm. That is the unprecedented double whammy. We’ve never seen a world where consumer spending is down by over 50%, where wealth and asset values built over the years, have been ravaged in a matter of days. We simply have no idea where this could end,” starts the letter issued by Quint, blaming the Corona crisis. Incidentally two weeks back, Quint was caught peddling a fake news item claiming that India had reached the Stage-3 level of Corona.
“We are forced to request you to proceed on a “furlough” (i. e., Leave Without Pay, LWP) wef the 15th of April, until further notice. Your pay for the half-month, from April 1 through 15, shall be processed and released very soon…… Finally, through this very tough period, we shall relax the “exclusivity” and “non-compete” obligations in your employment contract. Accordingly, you shall be free to take on freelance work, including from our direct competitors,” said Quint website’s letter to around fifty staffers, saying they may avail an advance of one month’s salary.
The furlough is a western concept and is not allowed under Indian labour rules. The indefinite furlough without salary is nothing but termination. The corrupt media baron Raghav Bahl is already charged by Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate for massive tax evasion and money laundering and illegally routing properties in London.
The Central and State Governments through many circulars have asked employers not to terminate or delay the salary during the COVID-19 crisis and many media organizations are flouting these Orders. Legal experts say the staffers who are facing retrenchment and delay in salary can approach the labour courts.
In the media world, Indian Express first announced salary cuts blaming Corona pandemic, while preaching ethics on any issue under the Sun. Times of India, Hindustan Times and Telegraph newspaper & India Today owners are also expected to come out with ruthless methods including salary cuts and retrenchments and closure of certain sections blaming the Corona crisis.
 Enforcement Directorate charges media baron Raghav Bahl of money laundering – Jun 7, 2019, PGurus.com
 Blaming Corona, Indian Express implements huge salary cuts – Apr 4, 2020, PGurus.com