Pressure cooker is finally blowing. And it seems it is blowing for a cause now. In what many be seen as first of its kind, a woman scribe who formerly worked with a Bengaluru based national daily, Deccan Herald (DH) has registered a complaint with National Commission for Women (NCW).
Former employee of DH, Chetana Divya Vasudev has raised a complaint of ‘mental torture’ and ‘derogatory conversation’ on her appearance on January 18. It is very strange to hear such complaint emanating from a news paper which is know for its progressive stands. Moreover this is a first ever complaint getting registered with NCW from the state of Karnataka, according to available information.
Chetana Divya claims that while working as a senior sub-editor in DH’s Metrolife section – all through her journalism journey for three months, she went through many ordeals which led to come out of the organisation. Before that she was working with the feature section of New Indian Express.
Prior filing complaint with NCW she resigned from DH. Chetana shot off a grieving resignation letter on December 11, 2016. In this candid letter, she has mentioned ordeals she encountered in DH which opens up a larger debate on the working condition in media houses.
First leg of trouble kicked her just after she joined the organisation towards the end of the August. The letter claimed, in the beginning she was denied access to internet, which is oxygen for scribes in the digital age. However, this issue was resolved on her insistence to provide access.
Divya was writing feature stories in Metrolife and according to journalists in other media organisations she is a good writer and kept the readers in grip of reading her write-up. Team managers of Metrolife in later days allegedly started to brand her ideas of feature stories as controversial and were allegedly criticising her for sourcing ideas from social network; Facebook.
Divya in letter says she was constantly overworked making calls after office hours as pressure on her to take quotes for stories on time was only mounting. Divya was also chided for unable to bring required quotes in time for her feature stories. In DH’s feature section she alleged rules kept changing on team lead’s moods and she was unable to get the hang of it.
Despite her priority was to generate quality stories, she was forced to change her priority to deliver only stories given as targets due these constraints. Bengaluru’s infamous traffic concern was not at all on the list for delay in delivering stories, she laments in her resignation letter which is secretly circulating in media Whatsapp groups.
What pushed Divya to resign?
What is more worrisome than anything else is treatment of this employee in DH. “One Monday I called a colleague to inform her that I had been throwing up all morning and couldn’t come to work. But two colleagues of mine who knew of this situation minced no words in letting me know that they thought this was a random illness and nothing compared to big health issues rest of us have. Sadly one colleague implied that I had faked it – in a team meeting – by saying, I know who is sick and who is not.”
Later there was a twist in turn when colleagues started to point out about pimples on the face of Divya. A co-worker strangely told her that she can take as many days’ leave to cure it and take it under priority. Two of her colleagues pressed that others are concerned about Divya’s skin problem and it may affect other employees. The colleagues went on to warn that HR department may pull her up for this problem. They also advised her to consult a doctor immediately, letter stated.
While this derogatory conversation and uncomfortable issue was brought to the notice of the Associate Editor of DH, he simply said he failed to understand what the problem was, letter claimed. Unable to withstand this trauma, Divya resigned and now has filed complained with NCW to fight for larger cause.
Associate Editor, Subrahmanya K reacting to Samachara said he is sad about what has happened. He confirmed that Divya brought this issue to his notice and he instructed this to her senior colleagues to handle it. “I am a man. It’s woman’s issue and how can I deal this? Hence I directed this to her colleagues.”
Subrahmanya further said there is no reason to be offended, when colleagues suggest to consult a doctor. “If someone is suffering from cold and colleagues fear that it may spread to them also, what is wrong in suggesting to visit a doctor?” he asked.
When contacted Personal Secretary of NCW Chairperson, he said “Chairperson Lalita Kumaramangalam is little busy and can be contacted later”. On the other hand Divya taking legal advise likely to to pursue this case hotly and this issue may set an example to question the odds in the media.
However, this is just an individual case and many be termed as individual centric. But there are slew of other issues haunting journalism employees in giant media houses and contract labour is a prime reason behind this. Samachara will try to explore contract labour system currently prevailing in prominent media houses in the coming days.