Thiruvananthapuram: Newspaper agents in the state of Kerala have been on strike for two weeks now. The on-going strike has left readers red-faced without their daily dose of news.
The strike has prompted various citizens' groups to take up distribution of newspapers in some parts of the state. Among those who are out on the streets distributing newspapers are prominent personalities including film stars and senior lawyers.
Commenting upon the difficulties being faced by citizens when it comes to accessing news, BK Lal, a businessman said, "We are facing a lot of hardships. I have to travel kilometres to the newspaper office to get my copy."
The newspaper agents, backed by the CPM's trade wing CITU, are demanding 50 per cent of the cover price as commission as against the 26 per cent that they get now.
Talking about the reasons behind the strike, KK Bava, Secretary of the Co-ordination Committee of Newspaper Agents: "The rates that we get were fixed some 35 years ago. There has been no hike ever since. This should be increased"
It is worthy to note here that agents have not stopped distribution of papers brought out by political parties. While some newspapers have sorted out the issue by offering up to 40% commission to the agents, Kerala's five leading dailies have refused to give in to the agents' demands.
Thomas Ravi, Deputy GM - Distribution, Malayala Manorama said, "We are now giving the newspapers at a cost minus the agents' commission to readers. We don't want agents' money. We are passing on that money to the subscribers."
An interesting aspect of the strike is that it has brought out a rare unity among rival newspapers. There is a temporary news-stand erected at the office of the state's leading Malayalam daily, and sharing space with it is the newspaper's rival as well as an English daily.
With no end to the standoff between newspaper managements and agents, it is the common man who continues to bear the brunt of the strike.