Thiruvananthapuram, March 26 (IANS) Newspaper readers in India's most literate state have taken up distribution of newspapers in many places in the wake of the week-old strike by newspaper agents.
The agents, led by the Coordination Committee of Newspaper Agents' Unions of Kerala, are currently on an indefinite strike demanding a hike in trade discount from the current 28 percent to 50 percent of the cover price of the newspaper and additional service charge for pull-outs and supplements.
Barring the capital district and Kollam, the normal distribution of newspapers to homes at dawn has stopped, leaving many an avid newspaper reader uncomfortable.
The strike is sponsored by unions affiliated to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)'s trade union wing CITU and they have excluded party organs from the strike.
'This is distressing ordinary people who depend on the newspaper for numerous needs, especially to convey the news of death. It is strange that the agents are continuing to distribute party organs. What sort of strike is this? We have decided to come out and start distributing papers. Let us see who will stop us,' said an angry group of people who gathered at a town near Kottayam.
In Thrissur, officials at the Taluk Office Monday took to distributing the newspapers before their office started.
In Wadakancherry near Thrissur, the police arrested two people who prevented an official of a leading newspaper organisation from distributing newspapers.
Near Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's home in Kottayam, the police arrested three persons who prevented people from distributing newspapers. Later, the arrested were released on bail.
In Pakkil near Kottayam, the St Theresa's Church decided to take up the distribution of newspapers through a church-based organisation.
The parish vicar, Fr Alex Kochad gave the first copy to a local village council member Monday.
Meanwhile the Kerala high court served notices to the state government and agents.
The court asked the state government Monday to let it know what steps it had taken to deal with the strike.
Meanwhile, with the papers not reaching the homes, many of the advertisers also are reluctant to put out any advertisements because they may not reach the desired sections.
Various newspaper organisations have started to give newspapers free of cost to those who come to their office.
But when they saw that a section of people were misusing this facility, they started to give the newspapers at a cost less the agents' commission.
Kerala Labour Minister Shibu Baby John has called a meeting with the agents Monday evening to see what can be done to end the strike.
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