An NRI, A Hyderabadi Techie And A Great Platform: This Is What Participatory Democracy Looks Like

Posted on February 4, 2014 in Entrepreneurship

By CGNet Swara:

Can you imagine a village in India without a bus service in 2013?

Of course you can. The harsh truth about “developing” India is that there are still thousands of villages that have proper tar roads and highway connectivity but still do not have a state operated Bus service(or other basic transport facilities generally and mandatorily available to the rest of the country).

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One such village is Pedamidisileru in Khammam District of Andhra Pradesh. The village was connected to the nearest town of Bhadrachalam via tar road but did not have a bus connectivity. People from the village depended on auto-rickshaws for commuting to and fro. One day, a young graduate from this sleepy village – Sagar, posted on his Facebook wall, seeking assistance in getting bus connectivity to the village

What followed next is unbelievable.
After almost 5-6 months of this status being updated on Facebook, the village finally inaugrated a bus service on 20th January 2014, all thanks to the selfless volunteers who approached the concerned officials in APSRTC, escalated the issue to appropriate authorities and followed up till the officials addressed the concerns.

Sounds like a typical fairy tale; doesn’t it?

Well, this story is almost 90% accurate except for the fact that there is no Facebook status update involved. Instead, it was all thanks to a unique platform called “CgNetSwara” that has given a voice to hundreds of voiceless adivasis and tribals – people generally ignored by the state due to other “pressing” matters of “urban urgency”.

CGNet Swara is a voice-based portal, freely accessible via mobile phone, that allows anyone to report and listen to stories of local interest. Reported stories which are then moderated by journalists; become available for playback online as well as over the phone (+91 8050068000). So, In February 2013, Sagar, reported this issue of “no bus service” in his village using the CgNet Swara platform. Subsequently, Suresh Ediga, an NRI residing in New Jersey, followed up on the story.

He called Sagar to first confirm the details and then called Mr Venkateswara Babu, the APSRTC Depot Manager in Badhrachalam. After a multitude of follow-ups with the officials, an inquiry was made to look into the issue. And so, Sagar submitted a written request to the depot manager highlighting the plight faced by his fellow villagers.

Given the time zone differences, the follow-ups and conversations happened very intermittently. The depot manager forgot about the request and villagers still continued to use auto-rickshaws for commuting. After almost 10 months, in December 2013, Suresh updated his Facebook status seeking aid from volunteers to help follow-up on this issue. That’s when Ali Hussaini, a Social activist from Hyderabad got involved and took over the case by storm.

Given his experience in dealing with Civic Issues faced in Hyderabad City, he provided the proper escalation procedures that needed to be followed. Subsequently, emails were sent to the Depot Manager of the Bhadrachalam RTC Depot, followed by the Public Relations Officer (Mr Kiran) of RTC and the then – Regional Manager (Mr. Ajay),of Khammam region’s RTC. Once the mails were sent, the next stage of following-up involved making phone calls to the concerned officials and seeking updates of actions initiated on emails. After a multitude of follow-up calls and numerous e-mail exchanges, the Regional manager finally ordered the Depot Manager to conduct a survey of the area to check the viability.

Once the survey report was submitted, the regional manager gave a green signal to start a bus Service to the village. It was decided by the Regional Manager that the bus service will be evaluated for at least a month to make sure it’s economically viable. So, finally, on 20th January 2014, Pedamidisileru got its first bus. This incident is a classic example of a citizen’s involvement with the system and it’s subsequent action by the officials.

CgNetSwara has many such success stories where issues like mid-day meal programs, hospital services, schools etc were reported onCgNet, followed up by CgNetSwara’s team of volunteers and subsequently resolved. This is a remarkable achievement because the demographic that generally reports on CgNet Swara comprises the poorest of the poor from the remotest villages of Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh etc. They finally have a voice in this technologically advanced age that they have been (unintentionally) witheld from.

If an NRI (Suresh Ediga), and a Hyderabadi techie(Ali Hussaini); using a platform as simple as the CgNet Swara can come together to help start a bus service in the remote village of Badhrachalam , both of whom had nothing to do with Sagar or the village; then imagine what will happen if thousands of people join the CgNet Swara platform and follow up on various issues/problems reported; think of the amazing transformation that can happen. The incident mentioned above is just one of many hundreds that are called in for every day. Each just a step but definitely a milestone on the road to the nation’s progress.

CgNet Swara is truly a powerful weapon in participatory democracy which can truly enable citizens and make them problem solvers, not just problem reporters. The “Mango Men” finally have another salvo- the voice of the “Other Half of Shining India” and a rallying call for socially aware and active citizens in the never-ending war against bureaucratic red tape and societal complacency that hinder the progress of a “Developing Nation” to becoming a truly “Developed Superpower

If you would like to volunteer to become a part of this silent, but not unheard-of revolution; please visit here. Find us here on Facebook and Twitter.

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