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How a Young Man Inspired Tribal Students from Maharashtra to Start Their Own College Newspaper

A group of tribal students from rural Maharashtra have started their own college newspaper to discuss their local issues and create a platform for expressing themselves.

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They don’t have access to Internet. They don’t have Facebook, Twitter, or email accounts, and most of them don’t even have basic mobile phones. But these young college students have one thing which is far more important than all other talents, and that is willingness to do something. These students, with the least available resources, have made their own college newspaper. This is the story of tribal students from Dhadgaon Block, which comes under the most underdeveloped districts of India.

Dhadgaon is one of the six blocks in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra. The students from Maharaj Janardan Podya Wadwi College, Dhadgaon have come up with their first college newspaper. This 4-page newspaper, named Jaagriti, is entirely designed, edited, and distributed by the students. “It took about three months for us to produce our first newspaper, but now we will publish it every month,” said Naresh, a B.Sc. First Year student and one of the members of the newspaper team.

The first two pages of this Bilingual (Marathi and Hindi) newspaper contain news from college. The third page is for the faculty and alumni of the college. This page provides space to teachers and alumni so that they can communicate with the students of the college. The last page of the newspaper is the students’ page.

They can share their ideas, opinions, and poems or sketches or any other hobby on it.

Vice-Chancellor of North Maharashtra University inaugurating the newspaper.

“It is our space. Nobody in Dhadgaon knew that I can draw, but now since my sketch has been published in our newspaper, every student and faculty knows about it,” said Santosh, a Second Year B.Sc. student who sells paani puri in the evening for a living.

The idea of making a newspaper for college students came from Nitesh Bhardwaj, who is working with BAIF in Dhadgaon for 13 months under a SBI Youth for India fellowship programme. While working for Market Linkage of Forest Products, he came in contact with Dr. H.M. Patil, Principal of Dhadgaon College. He discussed this idea with the principal and started working on it. He first trained the students to identify what is news, and how to write it. Later, he identified two students and trained them in newspaper design. Nitesh then made a team of nine students with different roles for the newspaper.

“It took around three months for us to come up with our first newspaper edition. Almost 75 % of the three months went in motivating students to come and join us. We started our class with more than 50 students, but within a week this number came down to 25, and after one month, I only had 11 students with me. Motivating students to work is the most difficult task. But now, after our first edition, students are coming to join our team,” said Nitesh.

The newspaper team has 11 working members, with three girls.

Nitesh Bhardwaj with a villager

Most of the team members had never used a computer or laptop before. This newspaper not only provides them with new skills, but also motivates them to think critically about any issue or topic so that they can write about it. Many students working in the newspaper are now taking interest in the working of the Gram Panchayat and government officials.

Being a college newspaper, the publication has many limitations. The important bit is that these tribal students have understood the power of newspapers, and may one day use it for the betterment of their lives.

About the author: Poojita Singh is an independent journalist and thinker who writes on social, political, and international issues.

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