NATIONAL

Children turn reporters in Orissa

Prafulla Das

BHUBANESWAR: With no roads, little water and no basic amenities, the tribal people in interior Orissa are caught in a vortex of poverty.

Children from Koraput district have decided to tell these stories of poverty a little differently. Their reports fill the pages of the first issue of Ankurodgam (regeneration), a monthly journal launched by Ankur, a joint initiative of the Koraput district administration and the Orissa branch of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). They are training children, mostly tribals, from classes III to VII from 10 villages under the Dasmantpur and Pottangi blocks as cub reporters.

Freshness in approach

Though the eight-page magazine talks about issues such as drinking water shortages, the lack of roads, and the absence of doctors in hospitals and teachers in schools, there is freshness in the approach. The reports are unmistakably angst-ridden and show a desire to correct the flaws.

"Our village has a large number of children. But half of them are not going to school. Their parents make them graze cattle. The children who refuse are beaten up," wrote Kumar Muduli, one of the child reporters from the Upper Primary School at Murkar village.

"There are many liquor vends in our village. The people of our village are blowing up their day's earnings by consuming liquor at these vends. Many people are suffering from different diseases by consuming liquor," said a report by Sabitri Panda.

"The Government planted saplings in our village, but they did not survive as they were planted towards the end of the monsoon," said Chinmayi Subudhi's report.

There are several such accounts of the inadequacies of the developmental system.

Conceived by UNICEF, Ankurodgam started with 100 reporters to make school children aware of the development of their villages, infant deaths, sanitation, health, hygiene, education and other issues. And it has been a success.

`A force to reckon with'

"These child reporters are a force to reckon with," says Lalatendu Acharya, communications officer, UNICEF. "The project aims to have 10 child reporters from each of the 170 gram panchayats of Koraput with a dedicated cadre of 1,700."

The Ankur project focuses on the survival, growth and development of the child. It aims to cover the 4,605 habitations and revenue villages in Koraput by 2007.

Each village would have four `Ankur' volunteers (two boys and two girls) who would be the driving force behind the development of the village.Village-based plans have been drawn in 16 villages, eight each in the Dasmantpur and Pottangi blocks.

Monitors

The child reporters will act as monitors of the process. The Collector has given each child reporter a signed badge, which is a pass for them to enter any Government office.

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