Skip to main content

Top journal EPW staff raise pitch, accuse ex-editor Thakurta of compromising egalitarian culture

By Our Representative
A letter purportedly written by the prestigious Economic and Political Weekly's (EPW's) editorial staff, claimed to be authentic, and taking rounds in the social media, has sharply criticized its former editor Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who controversially resigned from his post, for compromising "the egalitarian culture of the office".
Reproduced by an independent site, the letter, written a week after Thakurta's exit after his article on the Adani Group was withdrawn, says, "There has been a grave assault on the work culture in the EPW office, with many of us on staff being made to feel uncomfortable by inappropriate, sexual and sexist comments made by Mr Guha Thakurta."
While the names of the letter writers has been "retracted" by the site which has published the letter, which finds way to the well-known document sharing site, scribd.com, too, the content has been characterised as "sordid and depressing."
Written on July 25 and addressed to the trustees, the letter concedes that the withdrawal of Thakurta's article “Modi Government’s Rs 500 Crore Bonanza to Adani Group Company ” (EPW , 19 June 2017) "is a serious matter, and editorially, to our knowledge, EPW has not had to resort to such a drastic step in recent times (except in one case of substantial plagiarism)".
Calling this, and another decision which followed -- cancelation “Corporate Investigations”, a special issue of 39 pages, which included Thakurta's article, among four other investigations, scheduled for July 22, 2017 issue -- as disturbing as the owner, Sameeksha Trust "is not known to interfere with EPW’s day-to-day editorial functioning", the letter says, under Thakurta there was "grave assault on the work culture" which put "the reputation of EPW in jeopardy."
Writing to the trustees -- who include some of India's top academics and financial experts -- the staff insists, "We seek answers to some questions that concern the editorial autonomy of the magazine, the need for a channel of communication between the staff and Trustees, and would also like to explain the challenges we faced as an editorial team over the last 15 months."
Underlining that till March 2016, when Thakurta was appointed, EPW was "led by editors who oversaw the functioning of the organisation, the welfare of its staff, along with providing hands-on editorship", the letter, however, notes, "It would not be wrong to say that the EPW’s functioning depended heavily on the editor."
"EPW’s institutional culture needs to be one that is mindful of keeping up with changing times, but must do so while retaining core values"

"Such a model has worked mainly because editors in the past had shown dedication, taken up the challenge, and provided outstanding leadership", the letter says, though complaining, "Not every editor will meet the diverse requirements of EPW."
"EPW’s institutional culture needs to be one that is mindful of keeping up with changing times, but must do so while retaining core values", the letter says, adding, "The magazine will have to be taken into the future keeping its strengths in mind, while ensuring continuity."
Wanting the new editor to "support" and "respond" to new challenges of changes in technology, even as contemplating how to raise finances "among other things", the letter says, "There needs to be a set of advisors available to the editor and to the staff of EPW. A channel of communication and regular contact needs to be established between the Trust and the editorial staff."
Pointing out that other than Sameeksha Trust chairman DN Ghosh who visits the office whenever he is in Mumbai, the letter says, "To the best of our knowledge no Trustee has visited us and met us over the past year and perhaps earlier."
"Over the past 15 months, the editorial team of EPW has had to face several challenges. The biggest of these challenges was to safeguard the review process that was painstakingly built over many years", the letter says, adding, "This has been under pressure from various quarters" with Thakurta especially undermining "the review process for reasons best known to himself, despite our repeated advice against such actions."
It particularly says, "He has done this for his associates, persons of influence, and has entertained partisan endorsements to research papers without following the review process and evaluating the merit of the article, which was completely unbecoming of the editor."
Thus, it says, Thakurta "promised higher payments to certain authors (usually his old associates), which would have been 20 times higher than the token amounts paid to our contributors. These higher payments were resisted by EPW’s manager. These payments would probably have been made if Thakurta had continued as editor."
Calling it "another instance of unequal treatment of authors, and favouring of associates; all serious ethical concerns", the letter says, "In fact, on Thakurta’s very first day in office he ensured the publication of his own article titled, 'How Over-Invoicing of Imported Coal has Increased Power Tariffs' ( EPW, April 4, 2016), which was a unilateral decision."
"We tried to ensure that all authors are treated equally (with due consideration for marginalised causes and voices) and subjected to editorial oversight. Unfortunately, given the powers vested in the editor and his obstinacy, our views did not always prevail", the letter says.

Comments

Ghanshyam said…
As I have been associated with EPW as a contributor since its inceptions, in fact, I also published in Economic Weekly, I am pained to read this, the behviour of the former editor. I wish the new editor and the Trust would restore the collective functioning of the journal.

TRENDING

India reaches 8th of 10 stage genocide: US Muslim advocacy group raises 'alert'

By Hena Zuberi* India has reached the 8th stage of genocide with the persecution of the Muslim community. Stating this, Professor Greg Stanton, who heads Genocide Watch, declared a Genocide Emergency Alert for India today at Justice For All online briefing.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Mayawati's 'success' depends on how BSP taps new crop of young Amdekarite leaders

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Whatever be the election results in Uttar Pradesh on March 10, it is extremely important to understand: that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and its leader Mayawati have the potential to rise like a Phoenix any time.

Believe this: US' 95% of Covid cases are Omicron, India's 2%, model Gujarat's 0.43%

By Rajiv Shah  Scanning through news stories on Omicron, the new Covonavirus variant said to have been found in South Africa, I came across an interested in story, published in the New York-based network, CBS News. According to this story, published a couple of days ago, “The Omicron variant made up around 95.4% of new Covid-19 cases in the US last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.”

Holding militant rallies across Punjab, farmers 'forced' Prime Minister to retreat to Delhi

By Harsh Thakor*  The farmers' spirit, elevated and reverberated at a boiling point in Ferozpur like a spark turning into a prairie fire, appears to be behind Prime Minister Narinder Modi having being compelled to retreat to Delhi due to a virtually boycotted pandal. Demonstrations held just ahead of Modi's visit, especially in Firozpur, seemed to have already created tremors in the belly of the ruling party.

Barbaric, inhuman attack on Odisha villagers to implement JSW project: NGO networks

Counterview Desk  A “solidarity statement" issued by three top civil society networks, Friends of the Earth India (FoE India), Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has asked the Odisha chief minister to ensure that the “inhumane barbaric attack on the villagers of Dhinkia, Odisha” in order to implement a corporate project.

Democratic leaders silently greeting Modi's 'increasingly autocratic' rule: HRW

Counterview Desk The Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s new “World Report 2022: Events of 2021”, claiming to “investigate abuses, expose facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice”, has identified India as one of the countries where “autocracy is ascendant and democracy on the decline” because of emergence of leaders with autocratic tendencies.

India's actual Covid death rate about 2500 per million, third highest in world: Study

By Rajiv Shah  There is now well-researched proof, if it can be called that, indicating that the Government of India may have fudged data to show lower Covid death rate. A new paper, published in “Science”, has said that while officially the Government of India’s Covid-related death estimates as of January 1, 2022 – 345 per million population – are one-seventh of the US death rate, the actual analysis of crude death rate in India suggests, this may be a gross underestimation. 

Not-so-Catholic priest expels parishioner from church: 'Woman improperly dressed'

By Rosamma Thomas*  On Sunday, January 9, 2022, Fr Emmanuel, parish priest of the Lady of Guadalupe Church at Murikumphuzha, Pala, Kerala, sent his sacristan Joseph to ask a middle-aged woman to please wait a little after the morning mass – the priest would like to meet her. The woman waited, and the priest called her to his office room. “You know we are Malayalees,” he said, and asked her whether she knew what would follow. “No, please tell me,” she said. “You know women cover their heads in church, and dress politely,” he said. The woman, who had just returned to Kerala a few months prior after living elsewhere, had been getting her house repaired and had not yet unpacked all her clothes.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".