oday, the Indian media may be touching new heights and they might have gone global, but their fate has not changed much. One can see the shrinking space for free speech but also the increasing threats that journalists in India face today. The pressure from state and non-state actors, the fear of litigation, and the risk of physical attacks often dictate what makes the news – but more importantly, what doesn’t. Most of the journalists in India are unwittingly succumbing to pressure. Only a handful are daring to question the actions and motives of the establishment. The biggest media outlets – which continue to wield great influence over the nation – are not among them. The quality of journalism has shrunk so much that it’s difficult to find good reports.
When it comes to women journalists, added to the threat of violence is widespread character assassination. When male journalists are critical of the government in power, they are called corrupt. However, when women journalists do the same, apart from all the threats of physical attacks and intimidation, an army of online trolls is unleashed to malign them. The state intimidation has made it increasingly difficult to find outlets willing to publish stories that are critical of particular political organisations and government bodies. Specifically, stories that are based on thoroughly investigated ground reports and that are not opinion pieces but have solid documentation and evidence to back the claims. Those kinds of stories are becoming difficult to print. We are here as parallel media with no pressure or domination by anyone but somewhere we too get stuck when it comes to government advertisements, permissions or accreditations. Though, the influence of non-state actors is too much in every state of this country.
On one hand where journalists are at stake, on the other hand, no efforts are made by the government to protect the rights of the media persons. In a mad rush of pursuing deadlines, where the speed of a click is the entire globe per second, where do we stop? Does the need of the hour require us to halt and reconsider our work-life management? While most of the organisations in India follow a ten-hour a day policy, which is the maximum an organisation can make its employees work and not so when the numbers of working days in a week are six, as the total hours an employee can be made to work in a week should not exceed 58 hours. The laws exist but they are only ink on a damp paper when people do not mind doing the extra hours; sometimes for money, sometimes for interest, and most of the times due to a nagging pressure of deadlines half-met and most of the time need of work till you find alternative, but even if the alternative is found, the hierarchy is the same. So, what exactly are we gaining through our jobs as scribes? The very thing we started doing to get mental peace, but which by the nature of it, is taking away that thing only? Is it time we thought if nine or ten hours a day are too much?
According to ASSOCHAM, around 42.5 per cent of employees in India are depressed. Though mental health issues in children, teenagers, and adults are spoken about and discussed, the fact that the working population too suffers from this condition is not widely recognised. Mental health problems among employees are largely ignored because these disorders tend to be hidden amidst the daily bustle at work. People may also be reluctant to seek support for fear of facing stigma or of getting ousted from the job.
Fine, the question in its simplicity ignores the complexities of various natures of jobs that exist, of various kinds of hard work they require, a person’s health and his drive. However, as stated above, an organisation in India cannot make an employee work for more than 58 hours a week. Also, if the shift gives you enough breaks which are sufficient to reboot you, does the question become irrelevant? There are many things to be considered before we can attempt an answer to that problem. The most basic requirement for your work is to keep you secure and healthy. If you think that your job is rather contributing towards stress, it is time you reconsider it. I always tell my staff (colleagues), that nothing is important than you to me. If this job is taking away your peace, please find better options. Trust me, my simple intention is their health, their comfort, and their energy saving and most importantly, if I as provider fail to fulfil their needs, habits or demands, at least I can give them a safe exit. If you are able to successfully manage your work along with your hobbies and life, chances are that your work hours and work allotted are not a problem for you. Most of the time, we try to find excuses to be at a win-win situation. Our priorities get bigger than the duties and there actually the things go wrong. However, just because things are going wrong, you cannot run out of the situation by putting your peers in stress. Media houses are cursed; there is too much stress from all sides. Sometimes one has to struggle for basic independence at work. You are not allowed to think, you are asked to follow. No one has time to listen to your voice, because your say is hardly valued. Maybe I have gone through all these and perhaps this is the reason, I gave free hand to my team without being their boss. We have rather divided our work; we are actually amending the pattern of media working.
Indian law has different work-hour policies for different kinds of professions. For instance, as per the Working Journalist (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, a working journalist’s hours should not exceed six hours for a day shift and five and a half hours for a night shift. If they do, the employee must be compensated as per their usual pay. For construction workers, any overtime hours should be at twice the rate their normal wages. This is because the nature of their work is strenuous and should be compensated properly. Another very big problem is that of travel. If beside your job, you also have to travel long distances, you are not only investing your time but also your energy which would otherwise help you in your work. A rule that exists in many organisation is allowing a half an hour break for work of every four or five hours. As per this rule, a ten-hour shift should allow a break of an hour. If you are able to maintain a work-life balance by working ten hours with a break of one hour, managing your social life and family and an optimal health level, it should be okay.
In the end, one thing is sure that you cannot, in fact, feel too much, for then you become a person, a human being whereas you are meant to be studying human beings and reporting on them. If you are an editorial writer, you have to carry hypertension medicines in your purse for within minutes of an editor’s deciding; you have to write on the perils of that simple beverage, chai. Constitution, policies, papers, rulebook all gets tossed….. A journalist keeps on running with the time and their fate though!