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By : S.R. PRAVEEN, Source : The Hindu

In the most backward districts of Central India, where the gaze of the traditional media never reaches, a small revolution in journalism is happening through mobile phones. At the heart of it is a single mobile number, 8050068000, which the villagers call to report issues from their backyard. They press ‘1’ on their mobiles to record their stories and press ‘2’ to listen to those filed by others.

CGNet Swara (CG for Central Gondwana), the voice-based portal where these stories are collected, is ‘a step towards democratising journalism,’ according to its founder Shubhranshu Choudhary, who was in the city on a private visit.

“In India, politics is democratised, but the media are still top-down. In Chhattisgarh, there is a language barrier. A majority speak the Gondi language, which none of the administrators or journalists knows. Many of their problems are small and can be solved with effective communication. With the State absent, the Maoists have taken charge,” he says.

As a reporter for the BBC and The Guardian in South Asia, Shubhranshu’s work was far removed from his home State, until he came back to set up CGNet Swara

“Usually in any place, the problems are first reported in the local press, then in the national and later in the international press. But here, the first reports of Salwa Judum atrocities came on international media. The local media picked it up years later. We realised that we could make some difference through the Internet. For wider reach, we looked at community radio. But government controls did not take us far. Then, we found how mobile phones have reached almost all villages,” says Shubhranshu.