Editor vs Trustees: What’s ailing the EPW currently?
Academicians and social scientists in India are peeved with the latest developments in their much-valued journal, the Economic and Political Weekly. News of the EPW’s editor, Ram Manohar Reddy, stepping down has fuelled a controversy, which has led to 101 social scientists writing a letter to the board of trustees, protesting the move.
Reddy has been helming this unique source of scholarly articles across all academic disciplines including history, politics, economics, linguistics and anthropology, for almost 12 years.
The same structure the EPW had 50 years ago may or may not be suitable for the present times, says Ram Reddy
It further highlights the fact that despite his years of dedication to the organisation, Reddy has been “excluded from any role in the future governance of the journal and also kept out of the formal process of finding a successor”.
While Reddy concedes that except for the recent differences, which he termed “trivial”, he has never faced any resistance or interference from the board members, he minces no words in expressing his unhappiness with the manner in which the publication is being governed.
“The existing board of trustees has worked very well for 30 to 40 years. But it worked when it started, as it was a small institution. Now that it has established itself and has a huge reputation, we can’t have a handful of people giving oversight (SIC). You know, it is oversight. They are not executive trustees involved in the day to day functioning. But to give guidance, you need a different kind of board, or an informal body attached to the board which gives feedback. The same structure the EPW had 50 years ago may or may not be suitable for the present times,” he told Catch.
Professor Andre Beteille says the reason behind the entire controversy was a difference of opinion over Reddy being made a member of the trust.
Reddy’s letter to the ‘EPW community’ had announced that he would step down in March, 2016. He had added: “A decade and more is a long time for anyone to head a journal and all publications do need to renew themselves. The Sameeksha Trust has constituted a Search Committee which I hope will identify a candidate for the post by the end of March. I am sure that whoever is appointed, he/she will build on what we have done and give EPW a new vigour.”
The EPW, which has featured articles written by the likes of Amartya sen, Jagdish Bhawati and MN Srivnivas, is published by the Sameeksha Trust. The board of trustees comprises eminent personalities including, Professor Deepak Nayyar, DN Ghosh, Andre Beteille, Deepak Parekh, historian Romila Thapar, economist Jean Dreze and Rajeev Bhargava.
The EPW website clearly outlines the role of the trust and the trustees: “Its sole objective is to publish the EPW, and associated publications like books. The Trust appoints the editor of EPW but is not involved in the day to day administration of the journal. Over the decades, the editor of EPW has enjoyed a close relationship with the trustees and received their complete support.”
Ever since Reddy held the reigns of the weekly after the former editor, Krishna Raj’s demise in 2004, he has been instrumental in developing the magazine’s content and expanding the editorial staff. Much of the financial stability that the organisation enjoys currently is credited to him as well. He also helped the EPW move to its own permanent office. Additionally, he has been proactively involved in strengthening the EPW’s online presence.
Speaking to Catch, one of the trustees, Professor Andre Beteille said: “When Ram Reddy was appointed the editor, he was most reluctant. He lived in Hyderabad but he had to operate out of Mumbai. But we somehow persuaded him and he managed it. He has been saying for some time that he would like to be relieved. The board came to the conclusion that it would like to have a permanent editor. So a search committee has been set up and the man who is in charge is chairman of the trust, Prof Deepak Nayyar, Romila Thapar and perhaps Mr DN Ghosh.”
While Reddy says the real issue is reinventing and strengthening the institution, Professor Andre Beteille says the reason behind the entire controversy was a difference of opinion over Reddy being made a member of the trust. He said: “The Board was very clear about this. The editor can’t be a member of the trust. There is a board of trustees and there is an editor. These are different functions, (the editor being a part of the board) has never happened and I don’t see any reason for it to happen now. ”
On the issue of Reddy being kept out of the process of appointing his successor, another trustee Rajeev Bhargava, said: “Sachin Chowdhury, who founded the journal and Krishna Raj, who was a very successful editor, both died in office. So there is no precedence to the incumbent editor being consulted over who his successor should be.”
Romila Thapar could not be reached for her comments. Deepak Nayyar, Chairman of Sameeksha Trust said he was unwell and would be able to comment only on Monday.