CGNet Swara Impact
CGNet Swara empowers marginalized people, including India's 80 million tribals, by giving them an outlet to communicate with each other and the national and global media. Because the system gives rural, low-literate communities a way to connect using their own words and voices, CGnet Swara also can play an important role in preserving some of India's ancient tribal languages. Our vision is to scale the service within India and eventually beyond, creating a vibrant ecosystem of local reports that is universally accessible via low-cost mobile phones.
Since its deployment in February, 2010, CGNet Swara has received over 37,000 phone calls and 750 published reports via the service (as of May, 2011). Several of the reports have been picked up by the mainstream media, and some have had an anecdotal impact on the local political process. We give examples of such impacts below.
Payment of NREGA Wages
A citizen journalist did an interview with a laborer who was working under Indian government's flagship rural job guarantee program. During the interview it came out that Mr. Bhoi, the laborer was working for 100th day that day but was not paid any wages.
After few days another citizen journalist who had heard the story of about non-payment of wages to Mr. Bhoi found him in a hospital where his son had died due to paucity of money. Mr. Bhoi still had not got his wages.
After this BBC and some local newspapers picked up the story and Mr. Bhoi got his wages, as reflected in this BBC report. The Times of India and The Hindu newspaper followed (with respective articles here and here) and now some activists are taking the case to court to get Mr. Bhoi compensation which he is entitled to according to law.
Similarly Bhan Sahu, a woman reported about non-payment of wages in her area in the same rural job guarantee scheme. And when a reporter from The Hindu visited the area based on Ms. Sahu's report more than 1000 laborers got paid their wages due from more than 6 months.
Food Sent to Children After Complaint to Minister
A citizen journalist reported that a displaced village of Achanakmar Tiger reserve did not receive any food for 5 months in their anganvadi for pre-school children. Hearing this, an activist from Mumbai called Lata Usendi, minister for women and child welfare in Chhattisgarh to complain about the case. As a result of her action, officials delivered 12 quintals of rice for the hungry children, as detailed in this call.
Savita Rath from Raigarh had called Swara on 15th March to inform that children of Anganvadi in her village did not have proper food as supplies were stopped from government. She says the next day after the story went out, officials visited the village and arranged cooked food for the children, as detailed here. The officer has also assured in writing that the supplies that were due from few months now shall be delivered by 1st April.
Bank stops cheating adivasis after Swara report
On Nov 19, 2011, Afzal Khan from Bhopalpatnam in Chhattisgarh said that a few before he had reported about the State Bank not giving money to tribals on the excuse of their forefathers taking a loan. After the Swara report the Bank opened 2 special counters and gave money to adivasis without raising any issue of old loan, though the people who deposited their cheque of tendu patta bonus before the Swara report are still getting harassed.
School Re-Opens After Report on Swara
On Nov 2, 2011, Tapan Das from Nuapada district of Odisha reported that there was follow-up action taken based on a prior report. The prior report on CGNet Swara indicated that a school was not opened for 7 months because no teacher turned up there. In addition to depriving local children of their education, this also deprived them of food, due to the lack of mid-day meals. After hearing the report on CGNet Swara, the administration sent a teacher and the school has reopened.
Police Arrests "Rapist" Headmaster after Swara Report
On Nov 24, 2011, Khuturam Sunani reported that a headmaster in Koraput school had allegedly raped a 14 year old student, and 10 days after the police report and complaint to district collector there was no action. The administration was trying to hush up the matter. He had sent the message on Swara with phone numbers of police officers that day, and after the phone calls the headmaster was arrested the next day. He says that it should be investigated why police did not act for 10 days.
Seeding National Coverage on Security in Dantewada
These two stories look like normal stories but they are not:
In fact, these stories were not possible without a citizen journalism report (Alleged killing, rape and burning of houses in Dantewada) on CGNet Swara, broadcast 5 days before these first newspaper reports.
Similarly, these reports in Hindustan Times also look like normal reports:
- Absconding, but on duty. Hindustan Times, March 29, 2011.
- Kartam Surya's reign. Hindustan Times, March 30, 2011.
- Chattisgarh CM admits villagers brutalised in Red zone. Hindustan Times, April 5, 2011.
But these were not possible without this report, published on March 25, 2011 via CGNet Swara: Absconding" policeman with rape charges beats driver taking aid.
After these reports there has been a huge turmoil in the state assembly. 29 opposition MLAs were suspended. National Human Rights Commission has asked for a report. The police chief and administrative chief (collector) have been transferred and the government has announced a judicial enquiry. The Supreme Court has intervened to say that the enquiry must be by a High Court judge.
Seeding National Coverage on Coal Mine Controversy
The following three reports look like normal reports but they are not:
Villagers refuse to give land for coal mining. Hindustan Times, February 28, 2011.
Stiff resistance to DB Power Plant in Chhattisgarh. The Hindu, March 1, 2011.
Coal mine threatens to eat up town. The Times of India, March 2, 2011.
These reports would not have been possible without messages below on CGNet Swara where citizen journalists from this remote tribal area were using their phones to tell what is going on the ground while local mainstream media had blacked out the events:
- Appeal to press to cover public hearing on 28th in Dharmajaigarh. CGNet Swara, February 2, 2011.
- Misuse of law feared to help Power plant in Chhattisgarh. CGNet Swara, February 21, 2011.
- People damage vehicles of company seeking land for coal mines. CGNet Swara, February 22, 2011.
And these were the report people filed after the public hearing:
People refuse to give land for coal mines in Dharmajaigarh. CGNet Swara, February 28, 2011.
No one spoke in favor of industry in Dharmajaigarh public hearing. CGNet Swara, February 28, 2011.
We have more examples of similar reporting when a journalist of a national paper was alerted by reports from ground on CGNet Swara and a report in mainstream media finally helped the people. This way we have been able to stop people from going to the Maoists asking for help which has happened in the past when CGNet Swara was not present.
Seeding National Coverage on NREGA Payments in Surguja District
Shivram Sonvani, a community journalist reported on CGNet Swara from Mangari Panchayat in Batauli block where he interviewed NREGA workers who have not been paid and were getting ready to migrate. This was later picked up by Patrika in this report.
Payment of Salary to Teachers
In March 2010, Mangal Kunjam reported from Dantewada that some workers from the education department have not been paid for more than a year. Shortly thereafter, Mangal reported again that within a week or two of the interview appearing on CGNet Swara, the supervisor turned up and paid the salary. Both reports are done as interviews with a worker from an Ashram School in Kuakonda block near Bailadila.
Alternate Views Picked up by Press
The killing of "two innocents" was first reported in the press like this. Later there was a report on CGNet Swara by Gujjo Bai, the woman head of the village, who had a different version of the story. This version was later picked up by the press.
Removal of Liquor Shop
Kushal from Bijapur has reported that Collector has ordered removal of liquor shop in front of a school after hearing a message about it in CGNet Swara. He says earlier when people had protested on the same issue the administration had removed the school from there instead of the liquor shop.