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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Agents, hawkers face off over cuts

Dec. 2: Newspaper agents here today said they would employ fresh hawkers to distribute newspapers in the city after the All Guwahati Hawkers’ Association demanded a 27-35 per cent hike in commission.

All Guwahati Newspaper Agents Association president Pawan Ali Saikia said on an average, the agents got about 35 per cent commission from newspaper houses. “If we have to pay 35 per cent to the hawkers, we just cannot continue with the business.”

The situation had taken a turn for the worse yesterday after the hawkers here stopped distributing newspapers.

Saikia said they had already started employing new hawkers to tide over the crisis. “We placed a few persons at different points in the city today to distribute newspapers while some readers came on their own to pick up theirs,” he said.

“We will continue to recruit more hawkers to cover the entire city. Like today, we will also place people at designated points to distribute newspapers. This way, we are hopeful that the problem will be solved completely,” he added.

In the meantime, the agents’ association claimed that they were yet to receive Rs 1.5 crore from the hawkers here for newspapers distributed in the past two months. “The different newspaper agents are yet to get a total amount of Rs 1.5 crore from the hawkers. When we asked for the money, the All Guwahati Hawkers’ Association demanded a 35 per cent hike in their commission and said they would not clear their dues till their demand was met. We had even asked the hawkers to sit with us for a meeting to discuss the issue but they have not responded to our call so far,” Saikia said.

On the other hand, the agents’ announcement to engage new hawkers from tomorrow evoked sharp reaction from the hawkers’ association, with the association’s president, Dilip Barman, telling The Telegraph that they would continue their cease-work tomorrow and launch a protest if the agents engaged new hawkers.

“The agents will understand how tough the job of a hawker is — to give the right newspaper at the right household every morning. We had earlier approached the agents for discussions to sort out the issues but since they did not pay heed, we had no other option but to stop distribution of newspapers. We had submitted a proposal for a 35 per cent commission and if they come forward for discussions, we are ready to sort out the issue amicably and resume our work from tomorrow,” Barman said.

He said there were around 2,500 hawkers in the city and apart from the hike in commission they were seeking financial support during emergencies like accident and illness.

But perhaps the biggest sufferers are the readers, who have been deprived of their morning dose of news for no fault of theirs.

Himanta Baishya, a city resident, said, “I have heard that because of a clash between newspaper agents and hawkers, the latter have stopped distributing newspapers. No newspaper has been delivered at our home since yesterday. I just hope that they resolve the differences soon so that the readers get to read the newspaper every morning.”