Law and Justice Minister M. Veerappa Moily on Tuesday said he would study the file on the Justice G.R. Majithia Wage Boards' recommendations for journalists and other employees of newspapers/news agencies at the earliest and take a decision. Mr. Moily, talking to The Hindu here, denied that his Ministry was blocking the report by delaying a reply to the Cabinet note on the recommendations circulated by the Labour Ministry. “We cannot clear it blindly. We have to follow some procedure and look into the legal issues.” When it was pointed out that the Union Ministries of Information and Broadcasting, Corporate Affairs and Finance had replied positively to the Cabinet note, which has been in circulation since February, and that only the Law Ministry was lengthening the process, Mr. Moily said, “Nobody is objecting [to the recommendations].”
Labour and Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said his Ministry was awaiting the Law Ministry's reply and only after everything was cleared could he take the subject to the Cabinet for approval. However, he was confident that everything would be through in the next couple of weeks and a notification issued thereafter.
Informed sources said Law Secretary D.R. Meena had cleared the file and it had gone to the Minister (Mr. Moily). The Law Ministry, which earlier sought some clarifications in view of the strong objections raised by the managements of newspapers/news agencies, seems to have been satisfied with the Labour Ministry's reply to the queries. Three representatives each of the managements on the wage boards have protested against the “huge hike” in the wages recommended and refused to sign the final report. The Indian Newspaper Society earlier issued a statement asking the Labour Ministry to “reject” the recommendations and claimed that the wage boards' reports were prepared in breach of rules and time-tested procedures.
However, Justice Majithia justified his recommendations and claimed that the gross revenue of the print media had been increasing and in 2014 it was expected to reach Rs.269 billion. The gross revenue, which was Rs.139 billion in 2006, went up to Rs.175 billion in 2009. “The gross revenue of the print media industry grew at the compound annual rate of 8.12 per cent during 2006-09 and is projected to grow at the compound annual rate of 9 per cent during 2009-14.”
During 2009-2014, the advertisement revenue was expected to record a compound growth rate of 11.6 per cent per annum and circulation revenue, by 5 per cent. “The labour cost of the industry ranges from 10 to 14 per cent of the total cost.”
Justice Majithia said the capacity of large, medium and small media establishments to pay the recommended wage was assessed based on the financial data of a statistically representative cross-section of around 40 establishments.