How Bringing Mobile Journalism to Rural Maharashtra Changed Lives

While we’re busy checking updates on social media, Nandurbar village is without mobile networks, no electricity.

Updated
India
4 min read
 Nitesh holding a mobile phone with one of his trainees in rural Maharashtra.
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While we’re all busy checking our updates on social media, there’s a village in Maharashtra without mobile networks, electricity, or a decent transportation system. Nandurbar in Maharashtra is one of the most backward districts of India.

The district shares its boundaries with Gujarat at one end and Madhya Pradesh at the other. This district was earlier in the news when India’s first Aadhaar card was allotted to a woman here.

After seven years, it is again in the limelight, but this time because of the unique work done by a very ambitious and motivated young man.

Nitesh addresses a gathering in Nandurbar.
Nitesh addresses a gathering in Nandurbar.
(Photo: The Quint)

A young boy from Bihar, Nitesh Bhardwaj came to Dhadgaon – one of the six blocks of Nandurbar – with the idea of training college students to run their own newspaper. He shared his idea with Dr HM Patil, principal of Janardan Poharya Vadwi college in Dhadgaon, and with his support started taking training sessions for the students.

After one month of training in writing, designing and editing, the students came up with their newspaper – four pages that were distributed to their peers.

“Students write on different issues and also share their hobbies like story writing, painting and poems in the newspaper,” said Viki Pawar who has worked on the newspaper team.

This is the first time I have designed anything using a computer and it’s something new for us, but now I am confident that I can design any newspaper or magazine on a computer.
Viki Pawar, Student who worked on the newspaper

This newspaper is running successfully now and is gaining popularity in Nandurbar.

The newspaper has helped the students think critically about any issue and through this they have acquired new skills that will go with them a long way. This initiative has enabled students to take interest in how different types and levels of governments function. They have not just started reading newspapers, but have also started discussing the issues they read about.

After this Nitesh realised that the newspaper has certain limitations, he decided to work on short films. He felt that audio-visuals would appeal more to the villagers.

In order to broaden the reach, he teamed up with youngsters from Dhadgaon College and Harhankhuri Village of Dhadgaon. He trained them for about 15 days to shoot and edit films on mobile phones.

The idea is to make short films on local issues with local artists and that too in the local language to create social awareness and generate some livelihood. This team showcases their short films at different village meetings.

Nitesh with his mobile journalism team.
Nitesh with his mobile journalism team.
(Photo: The Quint)
We have screened our films in more than 20 village meetings covering around 100 villages.
Rakesh Pawara, a team member

Rakesh recently won the first prize in his district at a short film competition organised by the Government of India on the theme of cleanliness. Collectively, Nitesh’s team has made four films covering different social issues, and is working on another one that deals with the ‘sickle cell’ disease.

The team was highly appreciated by the District Magistrate of Nandurbar, Dr Mallinath Kalshetty, for their second film which spread awareness amongst the villagers about the use of toilets. He also gave a small message in their film.

During a shoot
During a shoot
(Photo: The Quint)

This team has its own YouTube channel called “Aadiwasi Janjagruti”, and they have been able to gather 4,000 views and 200 subscribers. They have uploaded a total of three films.

Nitish’s idea has not only helped in creating social awareness, but has generated employment for the youth as they keep themselves engaged in shooting videos for marriages and promotional videos for their village.

For his unique idea of creating social awareness and livelihood in society, Nitesh received the Young Achievers Award 2017 at the 12th National Quality conclave.

One of the most important reasons behind underdevelopment of rural India is the lack of information. Mainstream media doesn’t focus on rural areas enough, also the content and the language they use doesn’t always attract the rural community. So we needed an alternate media and that too in their language and focusing on their issues.
Nitesh Bhardwaj

(Poojita Singh is a freelance journalist and writes on various social and political topics. Poojita recently interned with Lok Sabha.)

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