In a country which holds the world’s largest democracy, our society has always been ignorant towards the problems concerning the tribal populace, farmers and lower castes. They are undeniably an intrinsic part of development of the country but the fourth pillar or democracy and even the ruling government avoids such discourses. 68% of our country’s population of 121 million, i.e. 83 million people still live in rural areas. Media has been raising the issues of religion, caste, gender discrimination and calling themselves the representative of the suppressed and unheard.
‘Aawaaz’ is an initiative which focuses upon training the tribal youth with journalistic skills and building a network of independent rural journalists in the tribal villages of Sarada Block in Udaipur, Rajasthan, with the aim of digging out the stories from the grass-root levels. According to the 2011 census, Sarada has a population of more than 2.5 lakhs and comprises of more than 190 villages, significantly receiving just two daily papers, Dainik Bhaskar and Rajasthan Patrika, transported from Udaipur city every day.
“The idea initiated after observing the need for adequate representation of stories belonging to the tribal section of our society. There have been various attempts to cover the tribal regions through external lens, but we aim at igniting the journalist within the tribal youth in a region where the school going kids are the first generation learners for institutional education”, said Sheetal Banchariya, a journalism graduate who took the Aawaaz initiative.
The project launched the first edition of their story-letter this week, and also shares individual stories via internet. The expenditure for printing the story letters is covered entirely through crowd funding. The agenda behind crowd funding here is to utilise the urban economy for the rural development. The medium of stories is Hindi as the tribal population in the region doesn’t even have Hindi as their first language for day-to-day conversations.
It’s high time to acknowledge that it’s more important to give power to the people and pay attention to the issues that are actually worth our concern.
With media industry stuck in the web of conglomerates, unable to shift their focus from corporate interests, the best alternative is to equip the rural tribal population with the tools to rise their issues and problems in the mass media.