How Community Correspondents and Community Media Flourished in 2020, Despite the Pandemic

 

As the year draws to a close, we want to draw your attention to some of the best videos produced by our community correspondents this year despite big, unprecedented challenges. I’m the social media manager at Video Volunteers; every day myself and my colleague Anwarul Hoda, who manages Video Volunteer’s YouTube channel, watch on YouTube all the newly posted videos made by our Correspondents; our job is to identify the best content and promote it to our audiences on YouTube and social media.

So far, since the pandemic began, our correspondents produced almost 1000 videos, despite the tremendous difficulty of reporting during the time of lockdowns and public health concerns. We’ve pulled together the best 50 videos from 2020 into this playlist. We hope you will find these videos as unique, authentic and insightful as we do. With their tremendous grassroots connections, our community correspondents access stories you absolutely cannot find elsewhere.

Here are the top themes, and links to the most representative videos. 

COVID-19 AND LOSS OF LIVELIHOODS

The worst hit due to the pandemic are those who were already in dire straits. Loss of livelihood, loss of home, no significant help from the authorities and a walk back to the village, thousands of kilometres away. Every Indian saw horrific images of migrant workers walking home back to their villages as everything came to a halt on March 24 2020 when the government announced a nationwide lockdown. Mainstream media networks did cover the sudden flood of migrant workers on the streets. But what after they reached their villages? How were they treated? What were the facilities at quarantine centres? What preparations were in place for those who belonged to scheduled castes and who are anyway treated with discrimination? This is what VV focused its reporting on.

 

We looked at the particular industries that were affected by the pandemic. For instance, our community correspondent from West Bengal reported on the sorry state in which Patachitra artisans are in. Patachitra is a unique art from the rural areas of Birbhum in West Bengal where stories are hand painted on cloth. Stories about local traditions, stories about epic sagas like Ramayana and Mahabharata, it's all there. If the artisan is in a good mood, he might also add a folk song to add to the storytelling. Patachitra art has been hit hard due to the pandemic as patrons have tightened their pockets in view of the looming uncertainty.

OPEN DEFECATION AND RISKS OF COVID-19 INFECTION

The Coronavirus’ virulent nature kept the researchers on their toes and it was soon found that the virus could survive in human waste for several days. Imagine being a villager in India, where people still go out in the open to defecate in absence of toilets. The risk of catching an infection increases manifold. And since India has been declared Open Defecation Free on October 2 2019, the Swachh Bharat Mission that reimbursed people for building toilets has ceased to exist. Even when the project was active, thousands of people waited for months to claim a reimbursement.

 

FIXING INDIA: ONE EPISODE AT A TIME

Fixing India, a Video Volunteers’ series showcasing best of impacts achieved throughout the country by VV Correspondents, is running its second season this year. Laxmi Kaurav, a community correspondent from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, was one of the driving forces behind restarting of a medical sub-centre that was shut for two decades. Laxmi, apart from being a community correspondent is also a ASHA worker, the frontline health worker in the Indian healthcare system. Despite being the first line of defence against COVID-19, these Corona warriors are not being paid for their work against the pandemic. No insurance, no extra pay despite putting their lives at risk! ASHA workers had to put up a fight to get protective gear like masks and face shields from the authorities. And how much do they get paid for all these efforts? Less than 50 cents a day!

Some of the other notable impacts that our CCs achieved were by Chetan Salve who fought for the compensation and rights for those displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project. Krupakar from Maharashtra, Shambhu from Rajasthan and Sita from Bihar helped 100 rural women refill their gas cylinders under the Ujjwala scheme. In a unique story, Khirendra Yadav reported about a nurse from Chhattisgarh who was nine months pregnant and yet serving on the frontline against Coronavirus. Amol Lalzare from Mumbai reported intimate details from inside a quarantine facility in Mumbai after one of his relatives tested positive for COVID-19.

COMMUNITY CORRESPONDENTS DOING RELIEF WORK

Total lockdown meant no one could move around. This affected community correspondents’ work as moving within the community is an integral part of their job. Hence, work from home opportunities were created and CCs lapped up the opportunity. Avijit Adhikary from West Bengal collaborated with local police authorities to help migrant labourers coming from Tamil Nadu reach home safely. Gayatri from Uttar Pradesh arranged ration for transgenders as they did not have ration cards to avail government benefits. Shabnam from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh worked with a local donor to provide ration relief to those most in need.

DISCRIMINATION IN TIMES OF A PANDEMIC

Our community correspondents also witnessed the discrimination done by the government during the pandemic. People returning from abroad were garlanded and brought home under the Vande Bharat mission. While those moving within the country were left high and dry. No transport to go home, no arrangements to stay put and police brutality to deal with.

With the year 2020 almost gone and news of COVID-19 vaccine giving some hope towards a better future, we as a community media organisation will look back at 2020 as a year of unprecedented challenges and how we devised new ways to continue our work of social reforms.

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/ January 22, 2021

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/ January 21, 2021

Formal applications to get new beds have been sent thrice to the local administration. But the situation hasn't changed.

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