Former Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) editor C Rammanohar Reddy has warned through a series of Facebook posts on his timeline that if the “rapid slide in EPW after the current crisis” is not arrested, the world-class journal known for some of the best research articles “will fade.”
Sameeksha trustees are some well-known academics — historian Romila Thapar, political theorist Rajeev Bhargava, economist Deepak Nayyar (EPW chairman), sociologists Andre Beteille and Dipankar Gupta, and Ambedkar University vice-chancellor Shyam Menon — and two doyens of banking and finance DN Ghosh (EPW managing-director) and Deepak Parekh (chairman HDFC).
Thakurta was forced to resign after his article in EPW alleging the Adani Group evading Rs 1,000 crore in tax was withdrawn following a defamation law suit slapped by the business group against EPW. One of the most cited investigative articles in the recent past, it can be accessed in www.thewire.in HERE.
Reddy, who also resigned amidst controversial circumstances more than a year ago – he is said to have resisted interference from the trustees – says, to argue that the Sameeksha Trust is a private trust and is therefore not answerable to the public is untenable, pointing out, it is “registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act of 1950 which covers, among other things, trusts set up for charitable purposes including education.”
He adds, “The trust also enjoys tax exemption under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act for donations made to its corpus; it is therefore answerable to the public. Public trusts cannot claim a privatized existence.”
Insisting that “there is a crisis in the governance of EPW”, Reddy says, “If not attended to, it is certain to affect the reputation and the quality of the journal.”
He wonders, “Which academic or journalist with self-respect and integrity will now want to be Editor of a journal whose board can one day say (i) you can’t write under your name, (ii) we will appoint a joint editor, and (iii) we will draw up norms of behaviour (written?) between the board and the editor?”
Doubting that even media mogul Rupert Murdoch has such norms for his editors, Reddy regrets, “The Sameeksha Trust is a self-selecting board whose members have given themselves permanent tenure.” Pointing out that “voting them out is not possible”, he adds, the trustees, in order to repair what has been damaged, should “quickly come out with a public statement that “affirms independence of the office of the editor.”
At the same time, je says, the trustees should state that in future they would “not issue any directions on either selection of articles or their removal from the EPW website”, assert that the trust would “back the editor and the team in any legal matter arising from publication of articles”, even as giving the editor “full freedom in all respects other than in matters concerning the Sameeksha Trust where he should consult with the trustees.”
Also seeking formation of an interactive consultative body, comprising a dozen or so members drawn from among scholars, and chosen by the trustees in consultation with the editor, Reddy says, “Such an advisory body could channel suggestions from the EPW community to the editor and trustees.”
If this all this does not happen, Reddy cautions, “We may well have to later say, EPW was one more Indian institution that was so difficult to build and so easy to destroy.”
Click HERE, for Rammohan Reddy’s Facebook posts