Anupama Sathi is a Community Correspondent from Jagatsinghpur district Odisha. She has been involved in helping organisations and students file RTIs in her area. She feels that her involvement in organisations like Mahila Ayog, a women’s rights group, has given a massive boost to her self-confidence. On the India Unheard platform, she wants to make videos that highlight community level…
After a spate of videos from the eastern state of Odisha documenting the utter failure of the social security system to deliver pensions to its senior citizens, an IndiaUnheard community video and a stubborn Community Correspondent (CC) helped 27 senior citizens realize the colors of change. For the last two months, the elderly of Karathuta village in the Kujang Block of Jagatsinghpur District have started receiving their monthly pension of Rs. 300/-. Also, Rs. 3600/- worth of arrears for the year 2012 have been deposited into their bank accounts. It is far from a substantial amount and it helps take care of small expenses like grains or medicines. But the satisfaction of victory in the long drawn fight for their rights has been incalculable.For the pensioners, the struggle for rights has lasted five frustrating years of trying to cut through the heart of paperwork and bureaucracy. For CC Anupama Sathy, the road from video to impact was paved and tarred in just one winter, a little over 3 months. 'Denied Pension in Old Age' was her first video after being trained as an IndiaUnheard correspondent. She says she cannot being to describe how happy she is that it ended up becoming her first story of success and change. Read Below for her account of how it unfolded...
"It was October 2012. I had only just returned to my village after the IndiaUnheard Training Camp in Odisha. I had started to be on the lookout for story ideas when an acquaintance in the community happened to narrate to me the story of Mayadhar Sethi, one of my neighbors in the village."
"Mayadhar is over 70 years old. He has no immediate family and lives alone. He has toiled all his life as a daily wage laborer and now, it is difficult for him to find work and earn his livelihood. As his age advances, his health is giving away. The Odisha government's elderly pension scheme (Madhu Babu Old Age Pension Scheme) would go a long way in helping Mayadhar support himself. But after five years of repeated application, re-application, fresh applications and appeals, he had yet to see a single rupee."
"I went over to Mayadhar's hut to meet him. ‘Community Correspondent' seemed a bit too much to explain. So I introduced myself a 'journalist' and explained to him all the ways in which IndiaUnheard functions - how we make a video, publish it for the world to see and then help change the issue documented in the video."
"As I spoke I realized that I wasn't too sure of myself. I had never made a video before. My camera was brand new and had just come out of its packaging. I was only repeating all I had learned at the training camp. I wasn't sure if I was explaining right. I was halting, stuttering and feeling my way around my brain while talking about it. But I kept at it and managed to persuade Mayadhar to appear before my camera."
"Mayadhar was extremely co-operative in the making of the video. While I was preparing for the shoot I realized that there were 26 other senior citizens in the village who had also failed to receive their old age pensions. But keeping in mind what I had learnt at the camp, I kept Mayadhar as my central character. His life and testimony would have to tell the tale of 26 others in three minutes. I could begin to imagine how my video would look and feel like."
"Once the video was complete to my satisfaction, I went with it to the Block Development Officer (BDO). I tried introducing myself as a Community Corespondent and again, I stuttered and stumbled. The BDO was, not unjustifiably a little incredulous. He asked me for my ID . For a moment, I was worried if he would accept it. But it passed and he allowed me to show him the video. He thanked me for bringing the issue to his notice and called me a good 'journalist'. He promised me that he would look into the matter. I waited a few days hoping hear from him but nothing came my way."
"By this time, the news of me being a 'journalist' and stories of my shoot with Mayadhar had begun to spread throughout my community. People were calling me up with their long standing issues and concerns hoping that I could help them out. Karathuta village is a small world. And having a media person in the community is the big news."
"Some two weeks later, I received message from some people in my community that the Deputy District Collector (DDC) was going to be present in our Block. I managed to secure an appointment with the DDC and the BDO. Once again, I screened my video and appealed to them to take immediate action. They promised me that they had already set the wheels moving and that I could expect good news anytime soon."
"A month later, in the last week of February 2013, some of my community people came over to my house. They were bearing good news. Mayadhar Sethi and the 26 other senior citizens had been called to the Block Development Office. They would not only begin receiving their monthly pensions but also arrears for the entire of last year."
"I could not believe it was true until I met Mayadhar and the others. They were over the moon. They were so happy... I am unable to describe it. They could not believe that their struggle was at an end. My first video had turned into my first story of change and impact! It was a great, great moment. "
"I now realize that a 'Community Correspondent' is a 'journalist' but also a little more than just that. For a Community Correspondent, the publishing and reporting is just half the job. But satisfaction comes only when there is change. That is the moment when you feel that you have done your job. And now that I have got to my first experience of impact, I also realize that 'bringing social change' is far from the 'impossibility' it sometimes sounds like. It is difficult but hardly impossible. "
"I have done my first job and now, I am working on the next."