By Anjali Devangan:
A paper that devotes at least 40 per cent of its editorial space to agriculture, horticulture, community development, cooperation and Panchayati Raj etc — this is the Indian Rural Press Association’s definition of ‘rural press’.
In a country where almost 70% of its population is rural, rural press is almost non-existent in India. Lack of readership in villages can mainly be attributed to illiteracy and poverty. In most scenarios, it is a handful of people who read the newspapers, and the rest depend on hearsay. However, rural press also suffers due to reasons such as low investment, inadequate management, outdated machines, untrained correspondents and a low return on investments. The social setup in our villages is also very vulnerable to advertisers, politicians and crooks alike.
This brings us to the question — how will rural press, if given a chance, change the current scene?
Rural press can become the greatest forum for the common man to voice himself. Whatever the cause – vulnerability due to financial situation, lack of awareness, influence or opportunities – most often, it is the poor villagers who are at the receiving end of injustice. By providing every man who knows to read in his native language – rural newspapers, this system will cultivate the habit of reading which in turn can make the common man more socially and politically aware of his surroundings.
Our villages bear the brunt of ignorance and corruption among government officials. Civic problems are plenty and crime rates are high. Rural press can play a huge role in helping India combat such problems by allowing the villagers to unite by their voice.
It will become a place where local issues can be discussed and immediate requirements can be addressed by bridging a gap between the leaders and the common folk. The same people who aren’t heard and are helpless will begin to feel important by participating actively in their environment. It is a medium than can uplift the self esteem of the heart of India.
Rural Press is the need of the hour.
As the children of the masses are beginning to find their way into classrooms, the newspapers will provide these neo-literates with reading material and pictures and expose them to events in both their own environment and the outside world. It will show the rural people how to be a part of movements to make a change for their own benefit. It will allow them to become more tolerant and broad minded. Rural press can be very powerful in bridging the gap between the poor India and the modern India. It can be an impetus to the immediate rise in the participation of the rural folk in social, economic and cultural development of the nation.