On the 24th of October, 2011 IndiaUnheard published a video by Community Correspondent Anand Pagare on the ubiquitous community notice board. Anand’s video chronicles the efforts of Shri. Santosh Jadhav, a local community worker in Nashik who was making a personal effort in trying to use these boards to the benefit of the communities. Shri. Jadhav believed that used rightly, these boards were the one of the easiest and most effective way to keep the public informed.
Anand, a veteran video activist and documentary film-maker says,” I was fascinated by the simplicity of the process, enough to make a video on it. It is not very different from what I do as a community correspondent. In most parts of the country have not been touched by the internet and the digital revolution. But that doesn’t mean you stop innovating or communicating. Like I say, if you don’t have a cell phone, you put your palms together and holler through. And you have to shout louder!”
The practice of having strategically placed or even painted boards along the walls of government building and public places like markets and gardens has a history that stretches even before the country earned its independence. Public announcements, birthdays, obituaries, family planning slogans, festival greetings etc were the kind of stock messages that could be found written across these boards. But increasingly, they were appropriated by the political parties who used them as mouthpieces for their ideologies and billboards asking for votes. If someone in the party wanted to appease a higher up, they would offer their love and regards on the public blackboard.
When Anand had finished the video he organized a small public screening at the office of Mr. Jadhav where everyone who appeared in the video could see the finished product. Says Anand, “It is a discipline that I follow with each of my videos. You cannot call the video as a ‘community video’ unless the community themselves has seen it.”
“It’s also fun,” he adds, “People enjoy seeing themselves on camera. The video was met with claps and hoots. I was congratulated. Everyone wanted a copy. You would think I had made a Bollywood film. It was a satisfying experience.”
Anand left a copy of the film with Mr. Jadhav and also sent him a link that was forwarded to all of thier contacts. A week later Anand got a call from a youth group from the town of Dhabadi in his district for Malegaon.
“I myself was once a member of youth organization. We thought we could change the world. I still do and that feeling I credit to my association with them. They sounded excited over the phone. They had loved my video and they wanted to start the community notice board system in Dhabadi. I immediately put them in touch with Mr. Jadhav.”
“From them on, the process was quick. Existing blackboards were in town were identified. They were dirty, muddy and unused. The group contacted the officials in town who had no problems in letting them take control of the boards. An important change was made in rules concerning the boards – earlier, only one person was in charge of what was written on the board. Now, the authorship has been left open. Anybody with a desire to use it to express their comments, make announcements, inform etc can use the space.”
Doesn’t it create confusion?
“Which was a risk the youth group was willing to take and it has paid off.”
“Recently, the youth group put up a notice calling the town people for an open discussion on the bad quality of water being drawn from the hand pump. Of course, the message was put on the board right next to the pump in question. I wasn’t present for the meeting but the people got together and the officials also got involved. Now, there will be a periodic checking of the quality of water.”
Has there been any improvements yet?
“Stay tuned for my next video,” says Anand Pagare, IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent, Malegaon, Maharashtra.