Some members of the Tamil Nadu Newspaper Sellers Association have stopped distributing copies of The Hindu and Hindu BusinessLine in certain parts of Chennai, demanding higher commission then the existing 15 per cent. Another demand they have made is that The Hindu’s new scheme, whereby the daily is said to be available in certain schools at Re 1 for students, be withdrawn or copies given to the hawkers at the same cost.
According to D Rajamani, Secretary of the association, the ‘strike’ has been effective from Saturday, July 2, in certain areas like Ambattur. On Tuesday, in some parts of South Chennai like T Nagar and Kodambakkam, the paper did not reach subscribers and in some cases even news stands. exchange4media spoke to members of the association as they met in Kodambakkam on Tuesday evening.
Rajamani said, “For employees of the publication, there have been steady improvements in salaries and they are well taken care of. We are being given a commission of 49 paise on a price of Rs. 3.25, and our job includes putting in the supplements. All costs are going up, even for us. Don’t we deserve a better pay? On top of it, they are now selling the paper in schools at Re.1 per day.” According to the hawkers, in end-June 2005, The Hindu was made available in certain English medium schools in the city at Re.1.
Industry watchers say that the hawkers are looking at the school subscription scheme as an opportunity to bargain for a better cut. Currently, The New Indian Express is said to be delivering a commission of 45 paise (priced at Rs 1.50) and the Deccan Chronicle is said to be giving hawkers 50 paise (priced at Re 1). Hawkers claim that The Hindu, with its price of Rs 3.25 (on weekdays), offers a commission of 15 per cent or 49 paise. This is up, they add, from the 10.5 per cent it offered in 1987, but claim that the rise is not enough. While boldly quoting a commission of 50 per cent as their demand, they add that they would ‘settle’ for something in-between.
Officials at The Hindu were unavailable for comment. Members of the association are to meet representatives of The Hindu on Wednesday morning to try and resolve the issue. The agenda clearly seems to be an enhanced cut.