By Satyaki Chakraborty
Sheetla Singh who founded the Hindi language daily Jan Morcha based in Faizabad in 1958 and nurtured it for the last 65 years turning it into a real people’s paper passed away on Tuesday. He was 91 and active in his editorial responsibilities till the end. His demise is being mourned by the journalists throughout the country belonging to all languages as he was also known as a journalists union leader who did a lot for improving the wages and the rights of the media persons.
Sheetla Singh was an active CPI workers in 1950s in Uttar Pradesh having big interest in both trade union activities and news writing. In 1968 along with his comrade Hargovind. He founded the Hindi daily Jan Morcha with their own humble resources. Both the founders devote full time with zeal and passion to turn the daily into a popular newspaper with high credibility and good standard of editorial matters. Ata time, when the newspapers in UP at that time were seeking financial assistance from the business houses, politicians and the state government, Singh stood on his own and ran the daily based on his uncompromising position.
Jan Morcha itself was more of a mission than a newspaper for earning money.. It was a people’s platform for all practical purposes.. The daily defended the cause of the common man. In building the daily from scratch Singh and Hargovind took up cudgels for every genuine demands of the common people of the state, especially, the landless workers, minorities and the Dalits. His room was always accessible to hear the grievances of the concerned people.
Renowned journalist of UP Sharat Pradhan who knew Singh well remembers him telling him about his early days with Jan Morcha, when he and his guru Hargobind would not only handle everything about the paper but even use the same news sheets when the time came to sleep on the editorial tables they had purchased at an auction for just Rs 3. I Pradhan said that he recall how he once said, “Kitni baar Hargobindji, hum aur humare teen aursaathi, jo shurumein ye akhbaarnikalte the, wahin daftar mein khichri pakakar aur khakar table pe akhbar bichakar so jaate the.”
This means “There were so many times when Hargobindji, our three other colleagues who were involved with the paper then and I used to cook khichri in the office itself and go off to sleep on the editorial table
The daily underwent several twists and turns in its journey but it was always fighting on the basis of principles. The daily had to close down its Lucknow edition during emergency years. But after a long gap, the Lucknow edition was revived and it is still running. The paper faced big financial problems but Singh was determined and he navigated the daily through turbulence with big confidence. Today after 65 years, the paper has nearly 50 employees directly on its rolls and about 150 full and part-time correspondents spread across large parts of rural eastern Uttar Pradesh in particular.
Sheetla Singh, was the president of the UP Working Journalists Union for many years. Committed to the cause of journalists and free media, he displayed rare courage and conviction in upholding the values of trade unionism. As a four-time member of the Press Council of India, he had earned a big name for keeping the flag flying high for journalists. His contribution as a member of several wage boards for journalists and newspaper employees is also widely recognised.
At a time, when the present ruling government at the centre has launched an all out attack on the press and putting pressure on the journalist for ignoring the misdeeds of the government and the ruling party, the death of this Titan in Hindi journalism is a big setback for the journalists community and freedom loving media. His legacy will still inspire hundreds of young media persons. (IPA Service)