On the 1st of May 2013, IndiaUnheard published a report from Community Correspondent Vrinda Azad that showed how children at the Jairamnagar Primary School were forced to put their lives on line to get drinking water.. The hand pump in their school had not been functional for over 4 months.
Now, less then a month later, Vrinda brings us an impact video showing evidence of a working hand pump, a development that occurred as a direct result of her video and the presence of her camera.
“When I went to the school and spoke to the teachers and principal, they were very supportive of my intention to make the video. They themselves had been trying to get hold of the Public Health Engineering Department of Bilaspur District but had been unable to do so,” says Vrinda.
“We decided that once the film was complete, I would go to the PHE department and show them evidence of the condition in the school and the risks the children were facing,” she says.
The primary school has around 155 students enrolled in it from classes 1 to 5. This makes the average age of the children there between 5 and 11. In the absence of a safe water source, students had two options to get water. The easier option was to cross the busy road to reach a water tank. For those with a daredevil streak in them, there was an option of crossing the railway tracks of a neighbouring station where water flows freely at the public taps.
“The teachers and parents had all obviously been worried at the state of affairs. So I went to the school one morning and made my film. I also spoke to the village headman who despite his refusal to appear on camera, promised to fix the hand pump. Promises like this, usually hold little water and change in communities like mine comes slowly,” explains Vrinda.
To everyone’s surprise, the change here came in a matter of 5 days.
“I did not even get a chance to go the PHE department to show them the video. I got a call one day from the school to tell me that the hand pump had been fixed. I think what happened was that the village headman called the PHE up and told them that the issue was going to go to the media through the video I had filmed. I like to believe that my camera scared them,” chuckles Vrinda.
Would things have moved slower had it not been for Vrinda’s presence? Would things have moved at all?
“Probably not,” says Vrinda before dropping a gem of a line.
“The minute the administration hears the word ‘media’ they are on their best behaviour and are suddenly efficient. A camera is dangerous but a camera wielded by one’s community member, even more so.”