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Oil sector PSU strike
Can you trust the Indian Media?
I work for ONGC, a Govt of India PSU. We were on strike from today demanding an honourable wage revision. Scanning through news channels for strike news, I came across some shocker. With the exception of NDTV, some television news channels are conveying whatever message they want to show (or babus from ministry want to show) after garnishing it with their own masala and a bit of crocodile tears for common public. Notable among these are the self proclaimed No.1 channel like Aaj Tak and Star News. The worst part of it is that one of the anchor could not even pronounce full form of HBJ Pipeline and hence told it the way she could.

Similar was the scenario when govt announced a pay revision for PSUs a couple of months back. They ran, including newspapers, reports highlighting what ministry babus said - a 300% hike. But when it was countered by unions and associations in PSU, the same ministry babus scaled down the hike to 50%. It was good that the TOI ran a good article clarifying the actual status. Given the current wages of the executives in these PSUs, the wage revision actually amounted to around 17%.

The sad part of this story is that for most of us newspaper and news channels are primary source of information. The worst is that most of us accept or tend to belief as true whatever is written in newspapers. But when you know the facts, you understand the truth behind the news. This makes you think as to how much of all the news you have read for the day are true. This is making many to look for news in the net and independent blogs provides probably one of the most authentic source of information.

The malaise of the Indian media are primarily 1) Unsubstantiated news without any research and 2) Hunger for breaking news for TRP.

Many news items are written according to the handouts handed out by babus and officials holding press conferences in plush hotels. The hospitality decides whether the handouts require editing or not. I had a brief stint at handling outside pressure groups and understood that it was not my cup of tea.

The Breaking News fever of Indian media is still worse. The week after the Mumbai terror attacks, a series on terror was run in national Geographic channel. In one of the shows, they highlighted the case of how terrorists exploiting this hunger for breaking news. Months after the Mumbai attack, it is quite clear now how those breaking news and live coverage of Indian media were actually helping the terrorists. The anchors which were literally shouting to make a point that these pictures are shown live exclusively on his channel, have now gone silent. Some of these news anchors are incompetent but tries to be jack of all trade and runs shows on subject without even having minimum knowledge on the subject. Fortunately we still have a few good news channels and good newspapers which gives relatively better news, if not 100% accurate.

As I had started with the issue of indefinite strike by all oil sector PSU, I need to let you know a few facts. It is quite obvious that the hardship caused to common man by any strike creates bad feeling for the group indulged in it. I am not defending myself or my colleagues, but this really is a do or die situation for us. We in ONGC work in dangerous situations - like in high seas of Mumabi and in the remote terrorist infested jungles of north-east. Therefore I place a few reason of the strike.
1) The last wage revision was done wef 1.1.1997. This means that the salary I am drawing is fixed with respect to economic scenarios prevalent in 1997. Ten long years have passed since. As per agreement that time, the next wage revision should have been done wef 1.1.2007. But two years have passed since that deadline.
2) Two months back, Govt had announced a pay package and magnanimously announce that a 300% hike has been given. This was grossly overstated. Given our current wages, the hike is only 17-20%. Now the babus of ministry had scaled down the hike to 57% or so, but has not given any publicity to this scale down. A 17% hike after 10 long years is unimaginable and the same is likely to continue for next 10 years!
3) Very cunningly they have left out the date of next revision. This meant that we may not another revision even after 10 years. When pointed out, it has been referred to a second committee. Date of next revision is a vital issue and certainly it was not left out by oversight. It is a willful omission.
4) There have been several meeting with ministries in last two months. But the ministry is adamant and has refuge to bulge. They promised few things, but did nothing.

The support to the strike is total. Even we were surprised by the totality of the strike. Everybody understands it is now or never situation. The babus who enjoy a lavish lifestyle splurging PSU money have decided to give the people who earn it for them peanuts. You all should know that these babus in ministries never go for private holidays. Holidays are always official for them and their families. Few leaders have been suspended. But as it stands now, the strike will continue, at least for tomorrow.
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