Telangana

In Adilabad, tribals take to citizen journalism

A team of Adivasi youth collecting information and visuals at Jainoor PHC in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.

A team of Adivasi youth collecting information and visuals at Jainoor PHC in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.  

Using cheap smartphones and internet access, Adivasi youths are voicing issues

Citizen journalism is fast catching up in the backward agency tracts in erstwhile united Adilabad district with youngsters from aboriginal tribes, literacy notwithstanding, making use of social media and messaging platforms to highlight problems in their villages.

Cheaper handsets of the smartphone variety and internet services are aiding the proliferation of citizen journalism. The only hindrance to the phenomenon spreading wider is the lack of accessibility in the interior hilly confines in the tribal belt.

Over the past five years, the rather passive tribal heartland has seen a marked change in terms of flow of information, and the speed has shot up since the start of the movement for excluding Lambada tribe from the Scheduled Tribes list in the latter half of 2017.

The modus operandi of Adivasi citizen journalists, who operate in individual capacity or in small groups, is to meticulously take notes, click pictures or shoot videos relating to problems like water shortage, sanitation and health issues in specific habitations, and upload them on Facebook, Youtube or WhatsApp, aimed at finding solutions.

However, the reach of these activists seems limited as their list of friends/ contacts does not include officials who matter. “Never mind that, our work is already making a difference. We have been able to get the attention of authorities to our problems,” claims Athram Bhujang Rao, a media and political savvy Raj Gond tribal teacher who leads a group of about seven Adivasi citizen journalists.

Bhujang Rao is right in a way. The ‘stories’ on sufferings of tribal people from remote areas that they put on social media are instantly being picked up by the conventional press and electronic media which gives more elaborate coverage to the issues. Take for example the citizen journalist’s report on severe water shortage at Gattepalli Tekidiguda of Indervelli mandal which was lapped up by the local press.

The tribal youth realised the power of social media during the violence which became an unfortunate part of their movement in November-December last year. They realised that their posts were being monitored by authorities too. “We hope that the authorities also take note of the issues tormenting us,” observed Kanaka Ambaji Rao, president of Haimendorf Youth, a social organisation of Adivasi youth based in Marlavai village of Kumram Bheem Asifabad district. “Perhaps, the administration can run a website or something on those lines which can give us the scope to voice our grievances through citizen journalism,” Mr. Rao added.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 1:04:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/tribals-take-to-citizen-journalism/article23752624.ece

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