Hindusthan Samachar, established in 1948 under the aegis of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which could never quite make a name like a year younger PTI or a much younger ANI (founded 1971), is about to see yet another change in its management. The news agency is witnessing a major reversal amid the ongoing tussle between the RSS and the management headed by BJP MP, billionaire and former journalist Ravindra Kishore Sinha. The management is also taking decisions on its own by keeping the rule of law on hold, according to insiders.
The tenure of Rajya Sabha MP RK Sinha, who became the guardian of the agency about five years ago, is going to end soon and Prime Minister Modi is not in the mood to give him another term. In such a situation, he may turn reluctant to incur further expenses of the agency.
It may be recalled in this context that the family and henchmen of Sinha were involved in a public brawl with workers of the BJP and followers of union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad outside the Patna airport when the latter was preferred to the former for the Lok Sabha election ticket from the city.
Sinha is also the founder and owner of Security and Intelligence Services (India) (SIS), a large private security firm in India and Australia, based in New Delhi.
There is a possibility that the RSS may make an arrangement under which it gets hold of some other tycoon to foot the bills of the news agency, but under the condition that many of the staffers will be replaced. It may be noted in this regard that the Indira Gandhi regime had come down heavily on the editorial leadership of Hindusthan Samachar during Emergency. Its office used to be at Mandi House of New Delhi where Doordarshan is located today. After the editor of the time refused to bow to the then prime minister’s demand to not carry the news of the Allahabad High Court verdict against her, the then Congress (I) government began harassing the management, which did not end even after razing the office building to the ground. Ever since, even though the agency did not perish, it could not stand in the competition with the state-favoured PTI either.
In 2016, the RSS had asked Sinha, who has been a swayamsevak for decades, to take over the charge of Hindusthan Samachar.
Sinha accused of arbitrary conduct by employees
Recently, the management decided to reduce the number of employees and ask employees with higher wages to quit. The national desk will be dismantled at the headquarters in Noida and the bureau will turn independent.
Under the scheme, two senior editors Subhash Nigam and Vijay Shankar have recently been forced to retire, as they were over 60 years of age while associate editor Krishna Kumar was forcibly granted voluntary leave for refusing to move to a branch office.
Dadhibal Yadav and Radha Raman were ordered to go to Dehradun and Raipur, but both of them claimed that they were there under a special arrangement of the management. They refused to accept the management order and indeed their claim turned out to have some merit when Sinha could not take disciplinary action against them.
Last Wednesday, nevertheless, executive editor Jitendra Tiwari misbehaved with Raman, say some of the employees, but they add that even Tiwari was wary of getting rough with Yadav.
An employee whom the management recently gave a short-shrift alleged that Yadav and Tiwari were favourites of group editor Rambahadur Rai. The source added, “Yadav and Tiwwari do every wrong thing on the instigation of Rai.” This is the reason why RK Sinha, the source said, “is too scared to touch act on them”.
Other employees of Hindusthan Samachar say workers are not getting any transfer allowance or even reimbursement of expenses. They say some of them have been transferred to places where no office exists!
The company’s retirement policy has mutually contradictory clauses, allege employees. On the one hand, they are forcing some employees above 60 years of age to retire; on the other, the group editor is sitting pretty at the ripe age of 76 years. Rai used to run small-time magazines that did not do well commercially before, the employees say, “he accepted Sinha’s offer of a kind of post-retirement rehabilitation plan”.
More glaring, the sources say, is the fact that the management has recently appointed 77-year-old Ambika Nandan Sahai as an editor in Lucknow, albeit under the condition of meeting a stiff target. They say Sinha “rehabilitated” several of his former colleagues and acquaintances of the 1970s and 1980s with important posts in Hindusthan Samachar or plum freelance assignments.
While some staff are angry with this arbitrary behaviour of the management, some are so scared that they do not mind continue to work quietly, lest they should be targeted next and forced to quit.