Lucknow: India's most authentic, biggest, trusted and sustained connect for the Hindu devout with its rich past of 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 labour 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, the Hindu religion 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 subsidised prices," a member of the management said 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 - have also been 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 labour 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, the monthly publications of the institution, are counted among the country's most subscribed religious magazines and are preserved for their rich content.
Shrimad Bhagvad Gita in different editions has sold nearly 115 million copies, Shri Ramcharitamanas and other works by Goswami Tulsidas 92.2 million, Puranas, Upanishads and ancient scriptures 22.7 million, small books especially for women and children 105.5 million and books on Bhakta-Gathas (biographies of saints) and Bhajans (devotional songs) 124.4 million.
Overall, 582. 5 million copies of Gita Press publications have so far come out.
An employee leader, while pointing out that to go on strike was a painful decision, 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.