What difference can a phone call make on someone’s life? Ask Shubhranshu Choudhary, the founder of CGNet Swara – a voice-based news portal that allows anyone to report and listen to stories on local issues.
He’ll have hundreds of stories to share with you.
Like the time when Mahesh Saket, a resident of Rewa district in Madhya Pradesh, reported that the single handpump in his village had not been working for a long time, which was creating immense trouble for the villagers.
They had to walk long distances to collect water from a polluted pond, boil the water, and then consume it. In spite of regular complaints to the authorities, no action was being taken. This was till Mahesh called CGNet Swara and reported the issue.
CGNet readers and listeners came across his recording and called the concerned authorities again and again, which led to the matter being solved within 10 days.
“If we use technology creatively, the outcome will definitely be good. Hawa ke jaisa media agar ban gaya (if we make media like the air), many problems will be solved. We can actually bring peace if the media is democratised,” says Shubhranshu. CGNet stands for Central Gondwana Net. And Swara means ‘voice’ in Sanskrit.
CGNet works on a very simple technology involving an internet connection, a phone number, and an interactive voice response (IVR) system. Any user who calls the number – 8050068000, gets connected to the internet.
The IVR system gives the callers two options – record a message or listen to reports. As soon as the recording is completed, a team of moderators gets a notification. They listen to the message, check the facts, verify the report, and publish the story if found suitable.
Most of the reports are in Gondi language – spoken by around two million people of the Gond tribe, living in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and so on.
They are translated into Hindi and English, and published on the website where journalists, NGOs, and other organisations can listen to them and help resolve these issues.
Another amazing story of change that Shubhranshu narrates is that of a tribe called Pahari Korwa, found in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh. People of this tribe live in villages located in hilly areas. A few years ago, villagers witnessed the death of two pregnant women in two consecutive months. They couldn’t reach the hospital in time because of the lack of proper roads.
Someone in the tribe came to know about CGNet Swara. He called the number and recorded a message. “If you are listening to this, please call up our collector and tell him about this problem. His name is Mukesh Bansal and this is his number…” he said.
Fortunately, someone in New Jersey came across this message on the website of CGNet Swara and called the collector. He was very surprised. How was somebody in the US calling him up to inform him about a village that he had never heard of? He reached there with his entire team and studied the condition and requirements, deciding to transform the village. Today, a school is being constructed there and a road is coming up – all because of one phone call.
CGNet Swara is now operational in the Adivasi areas of Maharashtra, MP, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Telangana, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. They get calls from around 1,500-2,000 listeners in a day and 150-200 calls of people who want to record. Five to ten stories are published each day. Their headquarters are located in Bhopal and all the reports are reviewed by a team of moderators. An SMS is sent out to users to notify when a new story is posted.
This month, The Better India is partnering with CGNet Swara to help all our readers become changemakers too. We will be sharing reports from different villagers about the problems they are facing and the changes they need, along with details of concerned authorities whom you can call.
A phone call takes just 5 minutes of your day, and if that can impact thousands of people in India, wouldn’t they be the best 5 minutes of your day?
Join our #CallForChange campaign and change lives with a simple phone call.