‘IPL Put Food on My Table, But Now I am Jobless’
More than 500 people who produced the IPL for TV are suddenly jobless after its suspension.
(This is the account of a TV production crew member who has been associated with multiple seasons of IPL. To protect his identity, we aren’t disclosing his real name)
As told to Tridip K Mandal...
All it takes is 280 characters. Sitting in the comfort of your living room, you can type away on your smartphone, call the IPL irresponsible, insensitive and untimely.
But what your 280 characters can never capture, is the suffering of those associated with the league.
Before you start typing your next tweet –‘players and franchise owners earning crores, are now talking about their suffering’ – just pause for a moment, hear me out. And then, you can very well decide to call out the IPL and every single person associated with it.
The worst-affected after the suspension of the IPL, aren’t the players, the franchise owners, the BCCI or the broadcaster. It is the 500-odd freelancers and gig workers associated with the event. The two months of IPL every year is the only time when they can earn enough to see them through the year. We don’t have a salary coming into our bank accounts at the end of every month.
The IPL suddenly getting suspended mid-way means we are left jobless. It’s like you go to bed, assured you have a job, but the next morning you wake up to find you have been fired. That’s our state.
If you really think your tweet can make a difference, tweet this article out. Just like you, the world needs to hear us out as well.
The Big Change
Like last year in the UAE, the IPL this year in India was conducted in a bio-bubble, which was supposed to be secure.
But the 14th edition was unlike any other IPL. There was one big change this year, which no one spoke about.
Right from its inception in 2008, the IPL was run by the International Management Group (IMG). But in January this year the BCCI parted ways with IMG, ending their 13-year-long association, even though IMG had retained the event rights of IPL in 2017 for a five-year period till 2022.
Hosting the IPL in UAE last year was, perhaps, IMG and BCCI’s biggest challenge. In UAE, even though, no air travel was involved, IMG was able to create a very secure bio bubble. The TV crew was given a seven-hour dedicated slot each day to get match-ready. During that slot, no one, like the guys putting up signages or groundsmen, were not allowed to enter the stadium.
They were given a separate window to get their jobs done. A better schedule for different teams ensured that the integrity of each bubble was preserved.
When the players practised, only a couple of groundsmen would be on standby outside the playing area.
Come 2021, the BCCI replaced IMG. Suddenly, IMG, that had delivered a safe IPL during the pandemic last year and had the experience to replicate the same in India, was no longer there.
For the agency that replaced it, it was always going to be a huge challenge, now made more difficult by an exploding pandemic and severe restrictions.
This year, during the pre-match preparations, lot of non-bubble guys were also present in the stadium, like the signage team, the LED team, the welders, and the stadium staffers. Different teams were working simultaneously. UAE wasn’t like this.
Three Crews, Six Venues
I was hired on a two-month contract by Star, to be part of the 125-strong team on ground. This included the 75-80 people providing the world the feed (match footage). The others were hired for Star’s customised content.
This year, three such ‘125-member’ production crew were to work from six cities. Non-COVID years had four such teams.
These production teams would be stationed in one city till all the matches were completed there. Then they would be moved to a new city when the matches moved.
As the venues changed, these huge crews took flights to the other cities during the raging pandemic, running the risk of getting infected in the transit. Luckily, none of the crew members have tested positive so far.
Just like the players, the crew also has to follow very strict protocols. We had to undergo an RTPCR test 72 hours prior to joining the crew. Once we reached the first city where the game was being played, we straightaway went into a seven-day quarantine. We were tested on Days 3, 5 and 6. Only after our tests returned three negatives, we entered the bubble. Each crew was monitored by four bubble-integrity managers.
IPL Puts Food on My Table
This year, the scheduling was such that the matches were not evenly divided between the three crews. Some crews ended up working more than the others. Effectively, they were earning more. The average consultancy fee for each crew member, across departments like camera, EVS (replay), vision mixers, sound, is in the range of Rs 6,000 to Rs15,000 per day for a two-month contract.
But while in the bubble, if we fall sick or have to go into quarantine, we aren’t paid for those days.
Ideally, 50 percent of the fee should be paid at the beginning of the tournament and the rest after the completion. But this year, not everyone has been paid yet. If the IPL is eventually called off, I really don’t know how we’ll manage financially for the rest of the year. IPL season is the only time when we earn.
As a freelancer, whether we get paid or not, we have to pay our advance taxes. It’s a bit unfair.
The IPL also indirectly supports thousands of people who work at each venue, erecting the LEDs, the painters, carpenters, the electricians, the housekeeping staff, catering crew, et al. All of them will suffer huge losses.
The IPL has been criticised even for having ambulances in the stadiums while a pandemic was raging outside. It is not a pandemic thing. Ambulances are always there during cricket matches. They were there even in earlier editions.
This year, what many of you saw and criticized the IPL for was the so called tone-deaf and ill-timed celebrations and joy. But none of you saw us because we worked behind the cameras. We toiled day in and day out to bring the matches to your screens. Spreading some 'khushi' in these tough times for few hours every evening. We were just doing our job – a job that we have lost now because the bubble couldn’t keep the virus out. If your tweet can put food on my table or pay my child's school fees, please go ahead, criticise the tournamnet and everyone else associated with it. If it can’t, then please think about us the next time you want to demonise the IPL.”
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