Bangalore: This is the story of the power of the printed word. And that power is not restricted to only those who have gone to journalism schools.
A school dropout from a slum in Bangalore has turned a self-styled journalist to bring out a monthly magazine called Slum Jagatthu. The only one of its kind in India, Slum Jagatthu is truly by, for and of the slum people.
LR Nagar, one of Bangalore's 778 slums, doesn't look any different from the hundreds of other slums in the country. But there is a difference. Among the 1,000-odd slums in Karnataka, this one has a voice of its own.
"Slum Jagatthu is a magazine specially for slum dwellers to express themselves and also to coordinate among themselves and also organise themselves. It’s a magazine for slum dwellers in Karnataka in Kannada," explains Isaac Arul Selva, publisher-cum-editor of the magazine.
"We mainly do investigation reports on different issues, slum problems, misappropriation of funds by officials and politicians and politics-related issues."
The story of Slum Jagatthu began in LR Nagar. Fed up with the trying living conditions, 34-year-old Selva decided that the best way to tackle this was to give a voice to their problems. Slum Jagatthu was born in October, 2000 with the help of a Bangalore-based NGO, Jana Sahayog.
"First, we were seven people in Bangalore itself - all slum youths. We started this and we selected some civil society persons as advisors," narrates Selva.
Jana Sahayog provided them with an office space, a computer and some furniture.
And it has been Selva's baby ever since. And though this editor is just a Class IV dropout, that doesn't make him any less qualified for the job.
"We are trying to give information and trying to tell people about their rights," he adds.
"Mainstream media is also quoting incidents reported by Slum Jagatthu. Policy issues raised by Slum Jagatthu are very important and officials also recognise them. So that's the kind of credibility these people have," says Rajendra, an advisor with the magazine.
However, it hasn't been a smooth sailing for Slum Jagatthu.
"There's no permanent source of funding. Till now, we are struggling for funds. People who are working for the magazine are not getting anything. They are all volunteers working for free, including myself," Selva reveals.
But for Selva and his team, the magazine is their labour of love, and they don't mind burning their midnight oil if that's what it takes. Slum Jagatthu has a modest circulation of 2,000 copies. Besides being sent to 180 slums, it is also posted to city corporators, ministers and government officials concerned with slum development, police stations, local MPs, MLAs, and NGOs.
"Its circulation is limited now. I want to reach 10,000 circulation for the English and Tamil versions of Slum Jagatthu," says Suresh, a layout designer with the magazine.
The 20-page magazine is the voice of more than 1.5 million slum people of Karnataka. At just Rs 5, it's a powerful tool and it has come a long way from the time it was launched five years back. Selva now plans to have it translated into English so that they are heard better and louder.