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Statement issued by the Sameeksha Trust: 2 August 2017

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Statement issued by the Sameeksha Trust:

 2 August 2017

 

Recent events concerning the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) have raised many questions about what EPW stands for and how best it can be carried forward.  We are addressing some of these in this second statement of the Sameeksha Trust.

 

On 20 July 2017, the Sameeksha Trust issued a public statement clarifying issues surrounding the resignation of EPW Editor, Mr. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. Since then, Mr. Guha Thakurta has made several statements in the press which warrant further clarification from the Sameeksha Trust. 

 

We would like to reiterate that, in our view, Mr. Guha Thakurta committed a grave impropriety and a breach of trust by not informing the trustees of a legal notice received from the lawyers of Adani Power Ltd in which the Sameeksha Trust was the first respondent. He went on to send a legal reply falsely stating that it was on instructions from the Trust without even notifying, let alone obtaining approval of, the trustees.  All this was placed on the EPW website, even before the Chairman and Managing Trustee were informed.

 

The matter was discussed at a special meeting of the Sameeksha Trust convened on 18 July 2017.  The trustees had read the article cited in the legal notice, published in EPW online 17 June 2017, with utmost care. In their view, the article was riddled with allegations based on information from anonymous sources, often just a single unnamed source; several assertions were unsubstantiated by evidence; and there were insinuations of impropriety against several persons, not backed by any firm evidence. When asked for supporting evidence, Mr. Guha Thakurta was unwilling to provide it. It was the unanimous view of the Trustees that the article, as published, failed to meet the standards of EPW. More disturbingly, this article did not go through the EPW editorial review process. Hence, the Editor was advised to withdraw the article published in EPW online on 17 June 2017, with which he readily agreed.

 

Sameeksha Trust does not interfere in editorial decisions. Even so, it has the responsibility to maintain the ethos, the quality, and the standards of EPW. On an earlier occasion, several months ago, the Chairman and the Managing Trustee had requested Mr Guha Thakurta to moderate his use of  the EPW and its website as platforms for his own signed articles.  This was because of a concern that when the Editor is the author of an article and also decides on its publication there is a conflict of interest that could compromise the editorial review process.

 

In this context, it is worth noting that the two previous Editors of EPW, Krishna Raj (1968-2004) and Rammanohar Reddy (2004-2016), wrote unsigned editorials or commentary but never published signed articles. Mr Guha Thakurta’s articles as an author, while he served as Editor, were not being subjected to any, let alone rigorous, process of review. The trustees conveyed this to him but Mr Guha Thakurta chose to ignore their suggestion, and published several such articles.

 

Towards the end of the meeting on 18 July 2017, the Trustees also discussed the need for checks and balances, to address the problem that had arisen, so as to maintain the integrity and impartiality of editorial review processes.  But the discussion came to no conclusions.  In response, at this point, Mr Guha Thakurta submitted his resignation, which was accepted after due deliberation.

 

In its long history, EPW has critiqued all manner of policies and establishments of all political colours – and it will continue to do so – but the instrument for criticism has to be evidence-based research and analysis or commentary. Every article that is published in the EPW is subject to peer review, by referees, by the senior editorial staff and the Editor. Its reputation as an independent credible voice, based on rigorous non-partisan editorial review, is what makes EPW so remarkable.

 

The EPW has earned its reputation as an independent, impartial, journal over fifty years, for publishing scholarly articles and providing incisive analyses together with independent commentary on economic, political and social issues of our times. These are its unique attributes that have been built over time by the collective effort of the staff, the editors, the contributors and the trustees. In its quest for preserving and nurturing this excellence, the Sameeksha Trust recognizes that there is need to create institutional mechanisms, and is committed to resolve organizational issues and strengthen internal systems while ensuring that the core values of EPW are not diluted in any manner. We can accomplish this task only with the support and suggestions of our contributors and readers.

 

Professor Deepak Nayyar (Chairman)

Mr D.N.Ghosh (Managing Trustee)

Professor Andre Beteille

Mr Deepak Parekh

Professor Romila Thapar

Professor Dipankar Gupta

Professor Rajeev Bhargava

Professor Shyam Menon

 

 

New Delhi

2nd August 2017

 

 

 

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