April 9th, 2016
CGNet Swara (www.cgnetswara.org) is a citizen journalism tool through which all of us can bring change and work towards a better India by making one phone call.
In July 2015, Jeevanlal Saket (Rewa District) in Madhya Pradesh reported an issue on CGNet Swara where pension for old people in a village was discontinued and the authorities continued to ignore appeal for regular pension distribution. After followup on the issue by callers with the authorities, the collector decided to resume the pensions.
Often we think looking at mainstream media as to why they do not report news from rural India where roughly 2/3rd of India’s population lives. Part of the issue is that the media houses do not have many journalists covering rural India, hence missing out on a lot of news and even the little news nuggets that makes into the mainstream media often isn’t given the due importance it deserves.
In addition, poor delivery of schemes is often known to be the biggest bottleneck with the government itself acknowledging the gap. CGNet Swara is changing that by providing the people living in rural/tribal India with a mechanism to self-report their issues. He and his team train the villagers using different techniques who then using the missed call technology, report the issue on CGNet Swara. These issues are verified by the CGNet Swara moderators and picked up by journalists, concerned citizens all over the world.
In addition to bridging the gap between rural and urban India, CGNet Swara (of which CG refers to Central Gondwana which is where the project was initially started) is also increasingly being used as a grievance redressal mechanism. More and more government officials are using CGNet Swara to track issues in their areas and have them addressed promptly. Issues including payment of pensions, NREGA wages, electricity supply issues, public funds misuse, and on health and education have been resolved through citizen journalism action on CGNet Swara.
Shubhranshu Choudhary, founder of CGNet Swara who grew in (Manendragarh in Koria district) Chhattisgarh and often saw a lot of people suffering because of lack of attention to the problems they were facing – poverty, lack of healthcare, education, unpaid wages, etc. Although he did very well for himself, growing on to become BBC’s South Asia Producer he wasn’t really happy with practising what he calls an ‘aristocratic’ form of journalism. He quit his job and eventually went on to establish CGNet Swara. Currently CGNet Swara works with the rural people in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Telangana. Shubhranshu is hopeful that eventually it will be used in all villages in India. Its model is already being replicated in many countries around the world.
They receive around 100 stories everyday of which it publishes 5-10 stories on its site with around 1000 people calling to listen to reported calls daily. Currently they sustain on a grant basis and are free for the users, but are hoping to make a transition to a revenue model.
You can help CGNet Swara by one of the following ways:
– Making a call through www.CGNetSwara.org for the issues, following up on the issue with the concerned officials (and potentially reporting the issue to journalists).
– Writing to Shubhranshu Choudhary at email@example.com if you’re interested in setting up a chapter (group of volunteers promoting CGNet Swara, calling officials to help address issues) or helping connect CGNet Swara to villages near you.
– Providing technical (development, testing etc) assistance by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Some potential projects include improving layout of CGNet Swara site, helping track issues on site better, crowdsourcing the moderation process and scaling follow-up process to link to put online petitions or any other actions. The site is built on PHP using Loudblog framework.
You can join the page: https://www.facebook.com/CGNetSwara/?fref=ts