This is the full text of N. Ravi‘s July 20 letter to the board of directors of Kasturi & Sons, the holding company of The Hindu, on why he can no longer continue as the editor of the paper, following the elevation of Delhi bureau chief Siddharth Varadarajan as the next editor of the paper.
I write this letter with a deep sense of distress over the unsavoury happenings in the company that we and generations before us have nurtured with great care and dedication.
You are all aware that I have been working in a professional capacity in The Hindu since 1972. The period when I was in charge as Editor between 1991 and 2003 saw the unprecedented expansion in the reach and coverage of The Hindu, and its transformation into a truly national newspaper that engaged in a lively and interesting way with the issues of the day.
The Hindu was then occupying the second position among the English language newspapers in terms of circulation. The primacy of the editorial side was firmly established, fair coverage and diversity of opinions were ensured and the newspaper stood up to the pressures from governments as well.
It was also a period when people went about their work with total commitment and dedication with little inclination for boardroom politicking. A fair degree of harmony was established among family members in 2000 which, however, lasted only until 2003.
Recent events have shown that deceit, lack of probity and bad faith have come into the dealings among family members on the board with a clique being formed through exchange of unmerited favours.
The turn of events since September 2009, and particularly since February 2010, have been marked by reneging on commitments made and agreements reached, benefiting from favours but not honouring reciprocal obligations and the vindictive removal of responsibilities from some and handing them to inexperienced and unsuitable family members to humour them and shore up support for a clique.
After having sworn by tradition and continuity for so long, to suddenly seek to remove highly qualified shareholder family members from the posts they have been holding for decades reeks of vindictiveness and the pursuit of colourable personal agendas.
A combination of megalomania and a crass disregard of the values that The Hindu has always stood for has brought the institution to this sorry state. It is shocking that some of the board members should want to run a media institution like a company producing plastic buckets with purely commercial considerations and unethical practices overwhelming editorial interests and values, thereby damaging the credibility of the newspaper.
The whole exercise of removal from posts on the editorial side is sought to be carried out in the guise of professionalisation as if the family shareholders holding positions on the editorial side are not in themselves qualified professionals.
Also, any claim of professionalisation is a sham as the separation of ownership from management is being applied selectively to some shareholders even as some other shareholders including wholly unqualified persons are being allowed to continue in high positions.
Ironically, the board clique that now speaks of professionalisation has been resisting suggestions to frame norms for the selection of family members to different posts and has been continuing to distribute responsibilities as largesses arbitrarily and without regard to qualifications.
The same arbitrary, non-professional procedure was followed even in the case of the appointment of Siddharth Varadarajan: his name was announced for the first time at a board meeting and passed without any discussion in a few minutes.
There were no selection procedures or prior consultation or evaluation of candidates that are normally followed in any well run company. In other words, the start of the so called professionalisation process has itself been carried out in a wholly arbitrary, non-professional way.
You are all aware that the board clique that removed the responsibilities of N. Murali was indicted by the Company Law Board in CP 25 of 2010 as lacking in probity and good faith. The same lack of probity and good faith is on display now in dealing with the reorganization of the editorial side and the actions of the board clique have been challenged in a company petition.
While the SLP before the Supreme Court stands disposed of without a stay but with directions for expedited hearing, the company petition is still pending before the CLB.
In the circumstances, the unseemly hurry in pushing through the appointment of Siddharth Varadarajan as Editor has made my continuance as Editor untenable. I hereby resign as Editor of The Hindu to which post I was designated in 1991. However, I will continue as a wholetime director.