Lucknow: India’s biggest and most trusted publisher of Hindu religious literature is faced with a strike and indefinite closure.
Headquartered in eastern Uttar Pradesh and publishing religious works since 1923, the Gita Press has shut down indefinitely owing to labor unrest.
The indefinite closure comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been gifting the Gita to foreign leaders and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has pitched for declaring it a “national scripture.”
Gita Press, a unit of Gobind Bhawan Karyalaya registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860 (presently governed by the West Bengal Societies Act, 1960), began as an initiative to “promote and spread the principles of Sanatana Dharma among the general public by publishing the Gita, Ramayana, Upanishads, Puranas, discourses of eminent saints and other character-building books and magazines and marketing them at highly subsidized prices,” a member of the management told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Ruing the decision to close down the press, located in Gorakhpur district, the official said three employees – Virendra Singh, Ram Jeevan Sharma and Munivar Mishra – were dismissed for instigating fellow employees.
“Information about the dismissal of these employees and of the indefinite closure has been communicated to the district administration, the police and the state’s labor department” the official further informed.
Over the years, the institution has made available more than 370 million copies of the Gita, Ramayan, Bhagvat, Durga Saptashati, Puranas, Upanishads, Bhakta-Gathas and other character-building books in Sanskrit, Hindi, English, Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi, Bangla, Oriya, Telugu, Kannada, and other Indian regional languages at low cost.
“Kalyan” in Hindi, with 300,000 subscribers and “Kalyana-Kalpataru” in English, monthly publications of the institution, are counted among the country’s most subscribed religious magazines and are preserved for their rich content.
Gita Press has sold nearly 115 million copies of the Shrimad Bhagvad Gita and 92 million copies of the Shri Ramcharitamanas and other works by Tulsidas.
A leader of the employees said the decision to strike work was a painful decision and accused the management of being autocratic and indifferent to their demands.
“We demanded a 10 percent hike in our wages every year, 30 days of paid leave and 20 percent house rent allowance,” the leader said, adding that the workers had struck work in 1982 and the standoff continued for 44 days.