Gita Press, the Gorakhpur-based publisher of Hindu religious and spiritual books, is facing a major labour crisis, presumably for the first time in its 92-year history.
The publisher, which clocked cumulative sales of 580 million books, is grappling with a workers’ strike over pay hike and workers’ suspension and termination.
Last month, the management had suspended 12 staffers and terminated the services of five contractual empl- oyees over alleged indiscipline and assault on an assistant manager. Gita Press has about 200 permanent and 250 contractual employees. Later, the workers had proceeded on a strike demanding revocation of the suspension and termination. Several rounds of talks between the management and the workers have failed to resolve the crisis.
Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath, who wields considerable influence in the region, had also intervened. But the latest round of talks, on Friday, also failed to break the ice.
Gita Press Trust Board chief Radhey Shyam Khemka said over telephone from Varanasi: “During the course of talks, we conceded to the original demand of the workers regarding revocation of suspension. However, the workers are now demanding a hike in remuneration as well, which we said would be considered only after two-three months after the restoration of normalcy.” of operations. But they (striking workers) are unrelenting.”
Gita Press prints from Gorakhpur while the editorial team, of 15-20, is housed in Varanasi.
There have been talks of the management mulling shifting the press to Gujarat or Maharashtra if the strike continues for long. “However, such a step would be the last resort”, Khemka said, adding that a handful of troublem-akers were instigating others to strike.
Khemka is also the editor of Kalyan, a popular spiritual magazine published by Gita Press.
A similar crisis had erupted a few months back at Gita Press, which was resolved after the intervention of senior district officials. But the latest strike has hit the publication of several books and titles.
Gita Press, which had started publishing in Hindi and Sanskrit, now publishes texts in English and Indian languages such as Sanskrit, Urdu, Telugu, Oriya, Bangla, Tamil, Marathi and Punjabi. Gita Press is a unit of Gobind Bhawan Karyalaya, registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 (governed by the West Bengal Societies Act, 1960).