Mumbai: March 22nd was the last day most Mumbaikars received doorstep delivery of their daily newspapers. The next day onwards, their ritual reading of a newspaper at breakfast was disrupted. Fifty days into the lockdown, for many, it has now come to feel like a habit from bygone days.
The disappearance of the beloved newspaper made the coronavirus threat hit home, as one refused to come to terms but yet had to grapple with the possibility that infection could occur at any point from the time the paper was dispatched till the time it reached one's door.
The joy in the morning of receiving that fresh copy, quartered or coned to fit into the door receptacle, eagerly drinking in the headlines as one retrieves it and opens it, has been gone for months.
Exactly how badly are people missing their daily 'fix'? An online survey conducted by the civic awareness group, Roads of Mumbai (RoM), found that as many as 55 per cent of Mumbaikars are missing reading an actual newspaper.
RoM sought a response from the public, including its 42,000 followers on Twitter. The sample size of the online poll comprised of 552 respondents from Mumbai, from different age groups and walks of life.
"Not everyone in the city is able to access a hard copy of newspapers, due to lockdown rules. We are missing the essence of flipping through the papers every morning and getting to know the city better," says Kandivli businesswoman Surveen Doshi.
The state government has already allowed the sale of newspapers in stalls and shops. However, doorstep delivery of newspapers is prohibited in Mumbai and Pune, as both cities are corona hotspots. In Mumbai, newspapers are being sold in stalls and shops in non-containment zones.
But residents say because of the strict police surveillance, regularly getting out on the streets is not possible. "There are a few shops selling newspapers but these are not centrally located and we need to travel two to three kilometres to reach there.
As there is strict police surveillance, we cannot do so regularly," says Namit Joshi, a Mahim resident. "We have asked our local retailers to drop a bundle of newspapers at our society gates, following which the watchman or society members may get it distributed in the society. But most vendors are reluctant," says a retired businessman from Jogeshwari, George Poonawala.
Though there is plenty of news to be had on the internet, numerous television channels and the radio, nothing can convey the immediacy of news like reading it in an actual newspaper, Mumbaikars feel. "Newspapers have factual explanations in their report.
Most readers don't just read them but try to analyse the situation by understanding the news story, as newspapers try to give a broader perspective," says Dharmesh Dixit, a Goregaon resident and educator. "There is a tonne of information available online.
But quality is missing. We watch debate shows on TV and read online articles too but a reader believes a news item to be authentic only he sees it in print, in the newspaper" maintains Malad resident Amar Karnik. Vendors and retailers say although various publishing houses have been printing copies, there is a shortage of labour so they are unable to distribute the product.
"News organisations are publishing papers, but our delivery boys are unavailable, as most of them have gone back to their hometowns, leaving us understaffed," informs Jaidev Hosalkar, a newspaper retailer.