Rural India enters portal of Delhi

Rediscovering Journalism

The great legacy of Indian journalism always engaged with ordinary people and real issues, for instance B R Ambedkar, who engaged with the fundamental issues of caste discrimination. How often do we do that now?,” veteran journalist P Sainath animatedly asked Metrolife after he officially launched his website PARI (People’s Archive of Rural India). 

In fact few decades ago, the evening news, whether on radio or on television, was undeniably an important part of one’s schedule. Families and acquaintances would huddle around a television or a radio, update themselves on the happenings of their locality and continue with their lives. But the advent of modern technology, the 24 hours that people had to themselves had to be tailored in order to fit in a barrage of recreational activities, thus reducing the value of news.

Eventually the marriage between storytelling and news ceased to exist as alternative options to spend time emerged. While news evolved over time by catering to public mood whose limited span of attention was only attracted by controversies and scandals, the art of storytelling deployed in journalism diminished. Journalists too were not impervious to the ‘rural to urban’ migration movement thus putting the societies which remained immune to the onslaught of modern technology, on their own.

“By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.” These words by Oscar Wilde perhaps sum up the reason behind the disconnect between the masses of rural and urban India. However, Wilde’s words seemed to have been realised this week in an auditorium filled by over 500 people who had come to attend the launch of the website PARI.  

According Sainath, rural India never was and in fact, never be fully ‘captured’. What PARI aims to do is to only attempt to document the ‘facial and occupational’ diversity
of India.

“Every newspaper had a ‘labour reporter’ but today, the portfolio of the person writing on labour is called ‘industrial relations’ which means a ‘business correspondent’ who is speaking to the company’s PRO who tells them what the workers are saying. There is not a single ‘agriculture correspondent’ and the same rule of labour reporting applies for the person who covers agricultural issues,” said Sainath who earlier served as the Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu.

The website will bank heavily on contributions by journalists, writers, film-makers, editors, translators, techies and lawyers whose sole duty would be to “record the everyday lives of everyday people.”

But more than the content generation, the whole project seems more like a movement to connect the urban with the rural masses of India using the original methods of journalism which included the art of storytelling.

“Raja Ram Mohan Roy, whose Persian newspaper Mirat ul Akhbar, from the beginning was driven by issues like widow remarriage, sati, and female foeticide. I never agreed with Raja Ram Mohan’s take on the British rule but at least the issues addressed real issues. How much do we talk about the Khap Panchayat,” Sainath told Metrolife. “The digital platform opens up new platforms,” he concluded.

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