The novel coronavirus was first detected in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, China late last year, and just a few weeks later (on January 2020), the first case of
was confirmed outside the country. Soon it was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The pandemic has now spread to around 180 countries and claimed over 3.38 lakh lives. With more than 53 lakh people infected worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating. As scientists are far away from finding a vaccine, lockdowns remain the only way to curb the spread of the deadly disease. However, the lockdowns have pushed major economies to the brink. Such is the impact of it that the International Monetary Fund (IFM) has revised its global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 3 per cent from 3.3 per cent just 3 months ago.
Millions of Indians have lost their jobs because of coronavirus-induced lockdown to contain the spread of the contagious disease. Several thousand others are getting pay cuts. According to some data, India's unemployment figures are four times that of the United States. This is happening despite repeated requests by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not cut the salaries of employees. He also forbade employers from handing over pink slips to their workers during the time of this crisis. But the request by the Hon'ble Prime Minister seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The worst affected seems to be
and IT. According to a LinkedIn survey, "More than two in five media professionals said their companies will fare worse in the next six months, exhibiting a bleak outlook towards the short-term future. One in four manufacturing professionals and more than one in five IT professionals felt the same."
Since India went into lockdown, several media houses have resorted to layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts. They all have citied economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic as the reason. What is shocking is that the layoffs hit Indian newsrooms soon after the lockdown was announced by the PM on March 25. It seems that several organisations were looking for an excuse to lay off their employees and this is probably why they decided to even ignore the advice of PM Modi. While several media organisation has announced pay cuts, some has rolled out furloughs and others have handed out pink slips to employees. The trend is global as more than 400 people working in the media industry were fired in the time span of just 30 days.
Some journalists' associations have joined hands to move the Supreme Court of India. They have filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the top court to halt the layoffs and pay cuts by the media houses during the nationwide lockdown. The PIL was filed as a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, which gives individuals the right to move the Supreme Court if they feel that their rights have been “unduly deprived”.
Print and electronic media, which has been allowed to work during the lockdown by the Ministry of Home Affairs saying they are essential services, has done this in the past also. But taking such decisions against the will of the government, especially during the time of crisis, shows that these organisations care little about their employees. Press is the fourth pillar of our democracy and its role is to make people aware of various kinds of information in the form of news. Media is often credited to be the voice of the unheard but instances like these show that there is hardly anything media persons can do when they found themselves at the receiving end.