On 10 August 2018, the inaugural issue of the news journal of the MGNREGA Division of the Panchayats & Rural Development Department was released by the Hon’ble Minister in charge, Shri Subrata Mukhopadhyay. The publication was realisation of a long-cherihed dream of the State MGNREGA family. For different reasons, the dream remained unrealised for pretty long time. Adequate stories were not coming from the field and the state authority found it difficult to make plan for monthly productions for a longer period of time. Faced with the challenge of continuing the publication, the state authority decided to wait before taking the leap.
Then, an interesting idea cropped up. Why not give the responsibility to the districts? Why not the people responsible for generating the stories be made accountable to give shape to the publication? Thus, it was decided to entrust one one issue to each of the 23 districts for the first 23 months. This would bring the flavour of the field and also will ensure continuation of the publication, at least for 23 issues, by which time the system should stabilise.
The result was this marvel. Purba Bardhaman readily agreed to be the first district to take up the assignment. They had to work against time. They had no role model to follow and had to devise their own ways. The State provided support and guidance; but time being the main constraint, there was little scope to reorganise the contents on the basis of the suggestions from the state. Be as it may, the district came up with a 152 page-long publication, giving space to each and every block of the district and different officers and functionaries at various level of programme implementation. It was a very well coordinated publication with lots of success stories and case studies from the field.
The limitations of the first issue is the very volume of it. As all were given chance to write, at times the articles became repetitive, and instead of talking about the specifics of different initiatives in the block/ gram panchayat, became a little message-type. This is not exactly what we wanted in the publication. The more the field flavour, the merrier – was our aim.
Next issue would come in September this year, this time from Purulia. What exactly we expect in the news journal? Following might be some of the ideas for the districts to work on:
- The State MGNREGA profile (with some changes in each issue)
- A profile of the District with graphs, tables, boxes
- An essay on the evolution of MGNREGA over the years in the focus district
- A special essay on the innovations and special projects in the district
- A dozen stories from the field (Case Studies/ Success Stories) (while presenting the stories some data in boxes or even woven in the text might be important)
- Excerpts of interviews of some of the households getting 100 days work in a year and effectively using the opportunities for developing their livelihood base
- As Purba Bardhaman did, a collage of news items published in different newspapers over time
- A day n the life of a filed level functionary associated with MGNREGA implementation (it may be a GRS, a VLE, a NS or someone from the other categories of staff associated)
- Often photographs speak. A collection of photographs would be useful. However, every photo should be referenced and given an identity. We would prefer caption for the photographs as well.
- A block may be taken as a unit to highlight its achievements in a more comprehensive manner.
All individual article should be written by a single person, even if that involves several blocks/ gram panchayats. Language should be lucid – simple sentences, positively in colloquial language.
In addition, there would be some messages, the editorial and a special article from the State on the possibilities of MGNREGA diversification in the focus district.
Expect substantial improvement in content and overall quality of the journal with relatively limited pages as we progress in time.
Congratulations Team West Bengal, congratulations Team Purba Bardhaman for bringing out the first issue of the journal within a very brief window period for preparation.