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Magazine for urban poor fighting survival

Jan 08, 2009

Slum Jagatthu, published from India’s tech hub, is perhaps the only mouthpiece of slum dwellers in the country. Having spread awareness about importance of education, sanitation and various government welfare schemes unfailingly for past eight years, it now faces an uncertain future due to lack of funds.

It is a unique magazine brought out by slum dwellers to address the issues of the urban poor. Now nine years after its launch, India's only such news magazine is battling for survival and the management refuses to seek government or private funds.

Slum Jagatthu (Slum World), a monthly magazine published from the country's tech hub, failed to come out with its December 2008 and January 2009 editions for lack of funds.

Bangalore is home to around 900,000 slum dwellers and the Slum Jagatthu exclusively focused on their plight and to educate them on the government welfare programmes.

The circulation of this publication priced at Rs. five has been small, just 2,500. The 30-page black and white magazine is in Kannada. But readership was good, between 50,000 and 60,000. Moreover the contents reached many more through word of mouth," said Slum Jagatthu editor Isaac Arul Selva, a school drop-out slum dweller who dabbled in various odd jobs before starting the magazine.

Many of the articles for the magazine are contributed by the slum dwellers themselves

"We could not bring out the December 2008 and January 2009 editions," said Selva. Launched in October 2000 by the city's slum dwellers, the magazine had been coming out without any advertisements. "Till now we have not carried any advertisement, either private or government," said Selva.

Asked if he has any plan to approach the state government or multinational companies and multi-million dollar IT companies for financial support, Selva said: "We don't seek financial support from any organisation".

On the team's efforts to increase circulation, he said: "We sell the magazine through word of mouth. Readers come to our office to collect the magazine every month. At times we too go to the slums and sell the magazine. Buyers of the magazine are spread across the city's 800 slums," Selva said.

A voice of the slum dwellers

Selva is hopeful the February issue will come out. "We're now working hard to bring out the February edition," the 38-year-old editor said, sipping tea in his one room office at Jayachamarajendra Road in the central business district, close to the office of the city civic authorities, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (Greater Bangalore City Corporation).

The team of the magazine, hailed as India's first news magazine about slum dwellers, works out of the cramped building of Jansahayog, an NGO, which works for the rights of the slum dwellers.

"We sell the magazine for Rs. Five whereas production cost is Rs.5.65 per issue," Selva said. "All these years we've been running the magazine in loss. But we had no other option. We wanted to bring into light various issues and problems of slum dwellers. Through the magazine we wanted to make the slum people aware about their rights," said P.K. Dayanand, senior editor of the magazine and a trained journalist from Bangalore University.

"The magazine has acted as a voice of the slum dwellers of the city. It has increased awareness among the slum dwellers about different government policies and schemes," added Dayanand, also a slum dweller.

Dayanand is the only trained journalist in the magazine's team. Many of the articles for the magazine are contributed by the slum dwellers themselves. "The team members have a knack for writing. Most of them are self-taught journalists and work hard as a team," Dayanand said. They spend more than four hours daily to compile the magazine, doing the editing and layout themselves.

One of the regular contributors to the magazine is Pushpalatha, a school dropout slum dweller, who writes on women-related issues. Mohan Kumar, another school dropout and daily wage earner, is also a contributor. He mostly focuses on child-related issues in slums.

Over the years Slum Jagatthu carried articles on the importance of education for slum children, role of sanitation, problem of malnutrition among slum children, proper healthcare facilities for women, crime against slum dwellers and government schemes for housing facilities for slum dwellers.

The article was originally published in IANS.

Source : The Hoot
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