Wednesday, 27 January 2016

‘A Message’

‘Low voltage from 2 years, students can’t study; water pump’s also not working, please help….’

A recorded voice message came today morning. A person called Shiv Prasad Sahu from Village- Sumerpur, District- Surajpur and Chhattisgarh has sent this message at around 7 in the morning. The message is saying that in the village there is only one transformer for around 1000 houses. It is been 2 years, the voltage of light is very low. Because of that, students from this village can’t study properly. It also affects the water pumps of the farmers. Villagers have complained many times to the Officers of Electricity Department but no action has been taken till now. Villagers are now requesting us…

A person recorded this message in the early morning, had told about problems within 3 minutes. I know how badly they are suffering from the last 2 years because, farming is the only means of earning for these villagers which is being affected because of low voltage. Above all this they really work hard every year in farming so that, their children can go school and continue their study. But again students won’t be able to give 100% because of law voltage which is causing eye problems.

This was the stated problems a person has told in this message but it does not end here… There are many other problems connected to this.  Let me explain- From the last two years, the villagers suffering from this electricity issue. The flickering bulb forced them to search for other source of light. And the alternative was lighting kerosene lamp at home. Government provides kerosene oil in minimum prices for poor, rural people but again the system of black marketing by the dealers decides the rate. (which is obviously high). Because of low voltage they have changed daily routine and get everything done before sunset. Why, because they have no option. If the students tries to study under that low voltage bulb, after sometime they are forced to wear glasses. And unfortunately our health department’s reaches all over the country except rural places like Sumerpur. And the low voltage, enables the water pumps to work properly which again making the farmers beggars. 

At last this person has recorded a message with the expectation of getting some kind of help at present or in the future. Will it get heard by people, who knows? Will people try to help them, who knows? It was ‘a message’. It might get place in tomorrow’s newspaper, it might not. Depends on the newspaper organization whether this message satisfy their demands of news or not. It depends.... May be some NGO can go and visit the place and try to understand the situation, or may not. May be in future some writer will mention something about this because it is related to education, maybe not…

But it explains the problem; a big problem, which has to be covered and considered…

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Somebody has said-
                                        “Experience is the teacher of all things”

Somebodies quotation might not fit for everyone in this world but I have seen a guy whose experience made him to work again in a place where he was an intern just few months back. I got a chance to talk few minutes with Deepak Bagri, who works in CGNetSwara currently not as an employee but as an intern. Yes, he is doing his internship twice in the same place. What do you think? Is it interesting working again in the same place where you have worked before? In this short life, people always want to experience different things. If the answer is yes, than the previous experience was must have something which made him working here again.
So, today I interviewed Deepak Bagri (an intern of CGNetSwara).

Deepak Bagri, May I know your background first?
Yes, of course. This is Deepak Bagri from Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. Currently I am doing my Master’s in Mass Communication and Journalism from Dr. Harish Singh Gour University, Sagar.

So, how did you come to know about CGNetSwara?
Okay, as I have mentioned that I am a student, one of my department faculty Dr. Vivek Jaiswal Sir had told me about CGnetSwara and also suggested to go for an internship there. So did me.

So, how did it start? I mean your journey in CGNetSwara, how have it been?
My journey started when I entered inside CGNetSwara Office in Raipur on 10th May. At first I did not know anything about CGNetSwara just had visited it is official website .The website itself explains the foundation objective and work but the office work is totally different. Then slowly I came to know that- CGNetSwara basically works for poor, rural people in Central Gondwana. I started learning- how people record their messages through mobile and how then we work on each message, which has done by moderation team.

What type of messages used to come?
The messages usually related to basic issues like, drinking water or hand-pump problem or about road issue. People also record messages about NAREGA wages issue or about function of high schools. They mostly record when these things not working or running properly.

So, if you have any social problem you can record and send it to CGNetSwara. Is it work like this?
No, not exactly. People can sure record their problems but we also appreciate when people record songs in local language or share something about their own culture in their local dialect.

What was your work their?
Here we have different teams. I started working in moderation team, where I used to listen all the messages comes daily, then edit it properly and send it our head. Sometimes if the message is incomplete, it goes to the modenc list. Where again I used to call back the caller, try to understand the issue and make the caller understand the right process of recording the message.

I have asked many questions about your work. May I know your life in CGNetSwara?
Yes Of course. Life at CGNetSwara is more or less like family type. Here all the employees and the intern stay together inside one office cum home. We start daily work with the morning g meeting at 8:30am and it ends up with the morning breakfast. And it continues like that. Interestingly the people who work here also help in cooking and other cleaning activity. So it gives the feeling of home inside. You come to know about each other’s culture and language too. Every day is very productive which gives knowledge about tribal languages like- Gondi, Chhattisgarhi and so on.

So, can I take this as a reason of you being here again after 6 months?
Yes, sure this could be one of the reasons but apart from this, the work at CGNetSwara really inspired me a lot. It is vision to work for rural people and give them a confidence and platform to raise their voice, influenced my decision and now I am here. That experience helped me to understand what are citizen journalism, media democratization, and development communication and enlightened me with the truth current situation of our rural part of the country. So I am very grateful to CGNetSwara….
Thank You Deepak Bagri for sharing your experience with me.

Really experience sometimes teaches so many things in life…..

Monday, 25 January 2016


I saw them…..
How they were living in the forest wearing just one cloth and pretending that weather doesn’t have control over them. How they used to cover themselves with one piece of cloth in the times of winter. How they travel miles and miles just to buy salt and sugar and how those children help their parents in farming. It was not unfamiliar yet surprising said Naresh Bunkar Sir. 

Naresh Bunkar Sir, a social activist working from the last 15 years with the tribal people in the Central India has had many good and bad experiences in his life. He had spend entire life working for tribal people like- Baiga Tribe, Gondi Tribe and so on..  
In these 21 years of life, did I ever struggle for clothes, for food, for water?????  Being a child of a middle class family, born and brought up in the city, we are facing so many problems like- We don’t have 24 hour electricity, don’t have cooler for summer days and so on…
Today, I am questioning myself if these are the real problems then what that- which Bunkar Sir has experienced was. His 15 years struggle and efforts for tribal people resulted that now more than 10 villages had been setup in the forests in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and now they are living in their ‘own land’.

There are still many problems, and has solutions too but the question here is- Are they aware of their RIGHTS??? Have they got a chance to see the REAL world or not?? Did anybody try to help them or did they ever come in front???
We have many laws and schemes for poor, needy people like- Indian Forest Act or NREGA Scheme or Right to Food, still majority are dying out of starvation in the country. They don’t have roof over them and still the rate of unemployment is high.
The scenario explains the current situation of the country. Now the question is- If people are not getting basic needs like- food, cloth and shelter then Democracy is just a word or it has a meaning with the intention to serve the people of the country??

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Life in the Mountains, with Naresh Bunkar.

                 Don’t we always wish we had a house on the mountains, where every morning we could wake up to the most beautiful sunrise and end our days with scenic sunsets?! Won’t we envy those who already live in such places? But, that is only till we know the whole truth. 

                 Baiga Adivasis, a community living on the hilly regions of Chattisgarh, till very recent times, struggled for their basic needs of food and water. They would have to walk miles and miles to get food from ration shops and to get access to clean drinking water.

                 But they have a friend who is no less than a messiah for these villagers, Mr. Naresh Bunkar. Bunkar (43), has been working for the betterment of this community and many more, and fighting for their rights. When he started with his work, the problems these villager faced were mainly about basic facilities like hand pumps, schools, electricity etc. One of the first cases he reported on, is of a school in Pipatola village where a school was sanctioned in 2008 but even till 2012 there was no building constructed. Another case was from Pandariya block, where the school teacher came to school only once or twice a month. After reporting the case on CGNet Swara’s alternative media platform, a few days later, the school teacher was suspended and government authorities made sure that the school began to function properly. 

                 Water was also another very basic issue, but Bunkar has worked very hard to restore basic human rights of these villagers. Every hand pump from the 22 villages of Achanak Marg, Lori block, Mungeli district, were repaired and fixed by the PHE department after Bunker reported the case of unsafe drinking water in this area, on CGNet Swara.

                 But for the past couple of years, a rising struggle for this community is their right over the land they live and they have been living on for many years now.  Even with the Forest Rights Act in place, the rights of these original inhabitants are not always being safeguarded.  Since Land rights are a pretty tedious issue, Bunkar , while fighting for these rights, has gone through life-threatening experiences. One such case was of the Bhangitola village, where Deputy Ranger (of that time), Lokinath Lahre demanded Rs. 3000 from each villager to get his land secured. But in spite of paying the bribe, even after 5 months, only 10 out of 33 villagers got their land secured.  When Bunkar questioned him about why the work wasn’t done inspite of paying money, the ranger denied of accepting any bribe at all. After several complaints to the seniors and reporting on CGNet Swara, the ranger admitted of accepting the bribe, and was forced to return back the money; but got suspended.

              Another challenge for Naresh Bunkar was a case from Shendurkhal panchayat, in 2014, where solar power equipments got stolen from the panchayat bhavan. Even after filing the FIR, there was no action taken. Only after the issue got reported on CGNet Swara, the police had to work on the case. But this particular incident caused too much trouble for Bunkar. The police and others conspired against Bunkar and falsely accused him of threatening a man and end his life. Later, he was also accused of  eve-teasing and sexually harassing a village girl. Since, both the FIRs filed were false, especially the latter which stated the date of crime as a date on which Bunkar was not even in town, Naresh Bunkar was declared as not guilty.

Naresh Bunkar, field reporter CGNet Swara
          Come what may, none of these obstacles deter Bunkar from working for the Baiga community, all he says is ‘ there is no better blessing in the world than the blessing you get from helping the needy’.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Adivasi- The 'Backward Culture'

            On my first visit to the "Haat" - the local market, which moves from one village to the other everyday, I found myself lost in the commotion. For a long time, I just kept looking around to notice and observe how different these villagers were from us. Nothing more than the language they spoke and the clothes they wore seemed different, they too just like us- 2 hands, 2 legs, 2 eyes, 2 ears and 1 nose. What then makes us think so differently about them?

             Is it the culture? Do we think they are primitive and backward? Just a little while later, they proved what they were.

            After spending some more time in the Haat, I realized that about 40% of the villagers were drunk. Being a young 'Indian' girl, around drunken men, I naturally became insecure and defensive. Prepared myself to react to any dirty eve-teasing or inappropriate touch.

          But not one, not one of those drunken men said or looked at either of us, with any wrong intentions. In a crowded place, where if this was Mumbai, I am sure I wouldn't have gone home without being commented upon or being touched 'by mistake'. But this place, felt safer than home. This is their culture, the so-called backward culture.

         Throughout the yatra, every place I went to, was a place 100% safe for women. Their culture teaches them to respect everything equally, not just women but also animals and nature. They worship Nature. They understand life much better than us. In spite of us being so 'forward' in our thoughts.

        This culture does not discriminate on the basis of gender at all. Women have all the freedom to express themselves in whichever way they wish to. Here, men and women can drink together, talk together laugh together, Enjoy- without being judged by the society.

    Unlike our 'well'- cultured society, where it is 'okay' if the husband returns home drunk and beats up the wife occasionally, but if the wife sips on some wine, she is not a good woman.

       That society and their culture, was what we were. What we should have been. But instead, we are just living in a 'well' cultured society.

Bahini Darbar- The Local Newspaper

We all need newspaper to know what is happening in and around us. In villages it is a little difficult to reach out to all the places for even leading or local newspaper agencies.  A small village in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh had the problem but now they have made a newspaper, which is handwritten by some group of Dalit and Adivas women.

The paper used is an A4 size notebook sheet and consist of 10 pages. The newspaper is written in their local language Bageli and now they have their Radio station too.

The newspaper started from an argument because of the unfair treatment towards the Dalits of the society. The village in Rewa has less numbers of hand pumps for water supply and everyone has to stand in row to collect water. The Dalit’s have to wait in line but if an upper caste person comes then the Dalit have to move back and give them privilege.

One day a dalit stud up for her right and tried to complain to the authorities but even they did not help her. This unfair treatment towards the Dalit created a burning flame within the women to help themselves and the Dalit community. That was the beginning of Bahini Darbar
Photo Courtesy: Hindustan Times

Their main topic consist on Women's Rights, Domestic Violence, Child Rights, Health and land rights, Environmental Rights, and they have started Library for the underprivileged. 

Bahini Darbar is now a local newspaper of Rewa where only 12 women work for 15 days to release the newspaper and rest of the days they do their work to earn money for their living.

They roam around many villages to collect information or stories which are untold and kept in dark. Once the paper is ready a team of 3 go to villages to publish the paper. They travel by foot to each village they come across and give them copy of their newspaper to whoever has subscribed for it. 

The main distributor’s name is Gudia and the Editor of this newspaper Jamnavati has completed 12std. Nirmala being illiterate travels to villages to give newspaper and calls up a meeting for women to raise issues to solve them. 

This is the change which brought empowerment in the Dalit community and gave them a reason to take part in the society. Now in Rewa, no one shows the ill treatment towards the community.


Can you imagine life without Internet, Wi-Fi or even range in your phone? Can you think of no air conditioner or television by your side and living below the hot sun?

The places I visit during the 5 day trip held by CGnet citizen journalism Yatra with Gondi team was a blessing. We visited 5 villages in Bijapur District which are Irkapali, Bedre, Ketulnar, Naimed and Farseghad.

The best village among these were Irkapali, the most simple, beautiful and yet untouched by development. The villagers had a welcoming heart and were very open minded which we thought was a myth in villages.

 They dint had electricity or pipe water; instead they had solar panels and hand pump. They had an amazing concept of Gotul, in which kids stay, grow up and they can even get married. 

CGnet yatra was held there to spread awareness about the work they do to help the underprivileged or the people whose basic needs are not seen.

Photo Courtesy: Aditi Kelshekar

But when we reached the place and started asking them about the needs they wanted, to my surprise they didn't wanted anything from us. Instead they were much happy in the state they were living. When we interviewed them, they were quite happy with the way of life they were having.

Their village consists of 36 houses and is deep in the forest area of Bijapur District. Without internet, Wi-Fi or range life could be lived under a starry sky.