Most of the time, when I go for morning cycling, my eyes cannot help getting riveted towards the newspaper hawkers also called newspapers boys, newsboys or 'newsies' busy in the premises of the local police station, keeping in order of their route on cycle, to be delivered to their customers and placing pullouts on weekends and pamphlets on demand or opening of new establishment or announcing of sales, are the most human resource for the mushrooming newspaper industry in India.
These hawkers are not employees of the newspapers but rather purchase the papers from the publishers and sold them as independent agents by keeping the newsboys depending on the circulation in the area.
Since my childhood, I am seeing the old newspaper hawker Lakhi Ram Kalra, to whom we still call 'Chacha Ji' - whose peculiar voice worded 'Akhbar-e' was a wakeup call each morning and a message that the newspapers Tribune, PunjabKesari and Hind Samachar in Urdu - have been pushed under your door. But now his son has inherited this profession and 'Chacha Ji' sits on the stall at the central place in the city. Anyhow, we miss the indication of paper received at our door-step but just check it up from the approximate time of throwing the papers in our house.
But their work begins when birds are yet to chirp and the dawn has not set in, irrespective of the summer, winter or the monsoon seasons when the newspaper publication by the publishers and distribution work of hawkers continues.
Sometimes I feel that that the prowess known as the 4th pillar of democracy would be toothless if ever this manpower newspaper hawkers decides to stop cycling.
Their job is without any break except for national holidays of Republic and Independence days when there is no newspaper and most of the time every year, we eagerly wait for the newspaper, it is out of mind and we even go to the door to collect the newspaper. Challenge of the job is that taking leave for them is not an easy task even if they are ill because any unsold copy would mean a loss.
One can well imagine how tasteless the morning tea would be without a daily dose of addiction of news of politics, films, entertainment, horoscopes etc. which our hawkers bring at our doorsteps.
No doubt, the social media has become the fastest news network as the printed copy will reach in your hands, on the next days' morning but one thing is certain, it cannot replaced, despite availability of various online news portals, the print media in toto. The survival of newspapers could only be possible with a new strategy of putting the contents of the investigative news only in the print papers. Whatever strategies our newspapers may adopt to promote 'e-papers' also, the broadsheet will continue to have its own charm as the suspense lies between the pages therein. While online, one goes for headlines and cannot browse for classified ads which too are important for the readers. This will not only keep up the standard of the newspaper, the hawkers community would continue to survive for times to come.
Yet, we hardly realize the importance of the newspaper hawkers in our lives. Not only this, the management of any newspaper don't have any welfare policy for them while the government has number of welfare schemes for the below poverty lines categories.
Certain newspaper readers have shown greatest callousness or lack of sympathy even if the newspaper supply is late from the back end for few minutes but they forget all sophistication and mannerism while dealing with the poor hawker who obviously has no high connections. He has to swallow all this attitude just for few bucks that he gets for delivering the paper while we hardly bothers to give hefty tips to the elegantly dressed waiters of the three-four or five star hotels. We have never thought for this class without whom our mornings would be incomplete.
Frankly speaking, I feel that the media houses known as the sentinel of the high platforms of news generation, have forgotten the cause of the very arms which make its survival possible.