25 July 2017

The Trustees,
Sameeksha Trust,

Dear Trustees,
We write to you once again at a difficult time as members of the editorial staff of Economic
and Political Weekly. 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. We are aware that the Managing Trustee, Mr D N Ghosh will be meeting the staff on
27 July 2017. We are hopeful that our concerns will be addressed.

We wish to understand the circumstances under which the article “Modi Government's ₹500
Crore Bonanza to Adani Group Company” (EPW, 19 June 2017) was asked to be deleted
from our website (only one article was taken down, not two as has been widely misreported).
The deletion of the article from our website is tantamount to the retraction of a published
article. This 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).

Mr Paranjoy Guha Thakurta instructed us via a phone call, during a Trustee meeting on the
afternoon of 18 July 2017, to delete the article from our website. We followed the then
editor’s instructions, as is expected of us, even as we were apprehensive. He also cancelled a
“Corporate Investigations” special issue of 39 pages (which included the said article, among
four other investigations) scheduled for the 22 July 2017 issue. The week’s issue was planned
afresh immediately by the staff.

We are disturbed by these decisions all the more because the Sameeksha Trust is not known
to interfere with EPW’s day-to-day editorial functioning.

We looked forward to the Trust’s statement to know why the article was retracted and to
better understand the Trustees’ decision. The statement issued on 20 July (which was not sent
to us) explained clearly the Trustees’ grievance with Mr Guha Thakurta, but did not address
the removal of the article. There has been a lot of speculation among readers and
contributors, and we have had no answers to offer them.

Up until March 2016, EPW was led by editors who oversaw the functioning of the
organisation, the welfare of its staff, along with providing hands-on editorship. It would not
be wrong to say that the EPW’s functioning depended heavily on the editor. Such a model has
worked mainly because editors in the past had shown dedication, taken up the challenge, and
provided outstanding leadership. 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 magazine will have to be taken into the
future keeping its strengths in mind, while ensuring continuity. Like the rest of the print
media, EPW is also grappling with rapid changes in the medium. The new editor will need
support on how best to respond to these challenges, and various others. Advice will be
needed on raising finances among other things. 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. Other than Mr D N Ghosh who
visits the office whenever he is in Mumbai, 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. This has been under pressure from various quarters. Mr Guha Thakurta
would repeatedly undermine the review process for reasons best known to himself, despite
our repeated advice against such actions. 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. Even Trustees should have no say in the review process, and should respect the
editorial autonomy of EPW.

Mr Guha Thakurta also 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 Mr Guha Thakurta had continued as editor. This is yet
another instance of unequal treatment of authors, and favouring of associates; all serious
ethical concerns.

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.

In all, the egalitarian culture of the office had been compromised.

The other great challenge to the editorial team was about ensuring editorial oversight when
the editor of the publication is himself an author. This was an odd situation (indeed,
unprecedented for EPW) where the power and responsibility of editorial decisions (and the
liability) lies with the editor–author, but the capacity for independent, unbiased judgement
does not rest with the editor–author. In fact, on Mr Guha 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, 4 April 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. Our failure on this count did
put the reputation of EPW in jeopardy. This marked change in EPW’s work culture left many
of us in the uncomfortable position of challenging the editor time and again.

We have been discussing these issues of due diligence and prejudice-free processes among
ourselves, and had been taking corrective steps to check such misuse of power. We assure
you that this experience has only strengthened our resolve to uphold the principles of editorial
oversight for all authors without fear or favour.

We hope that the Trustees will address our concerns about the deletion of the article and our
editorial independence, especially in today’s political environment, and take the utmost care
in choosing the next editor.

Yours faithfully,
Members of the Editorial Team
Economic & Political Weekly
(In Alphabetical Order)
Abhishek Shaw (Senior Assistant Editor)
Bernard D’Mello (Deputy Editor)
Kalpana Sharma (Consulting Editor)
Leela Solomon (Assistant Editor)
Lina Mathias (Executive Editor)
Lubna Duggal (Senior Assistant Editor)
Sangeeta Ghosh (Assistant Editor)
Shireen Azam (Assistant Editor, Digital)