India’s first newspaper for the vast rural population
An Indian newspaper is standing out from the crowd by offering a specialised service for rural areas, including people who can’t read.
The weekly ‘Gaon Connection’ caters to the country’s large farming community and has also introduced a telephone listening service.
Hot off the press, and ready for people to read all about life in rural India.
Thousands of copies of India’s first rural newspaper, ‘Gaon Connection’, are being churned out at a printing press in the central Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
There’s a 7am deadline to be met, so that the paper can reach its customers – villagers in the rural areas of India.
For roughly 10 cents per paper, people living in the villages of rural India can now have ‘Gaon Connection’ (Gaon means ‘village’ in Hindi) delivered at their doorstep.
Launched in 2012, ‘Gaon Connection’ reports on rural issues and chronicles the changes and innovations happening in villages that often don’t find a place in the urban mainstream papers.
Every Monday, eager residents of a remote village in the district of Rae Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, who have subscribed to ‘Gaon Connection’, start browsing through it as soon as it arrives.
When ‘Gaon Connection’ launched it was printing between 15,000 and 20,000 copies per week – now it is shifting around 100,000 copies. It’s still some way behind India’s bestselling daily paper ‘Dainik Jagaran’, which publishes 15.5 million papers every day.
Headquartered in the city of Lucknow, ‘Gaon Connection’ has a small team of around 10 people from rural and urban India working as reporters and editors.
The newspaper’s founder and editor in chief, S B Misra, holds weekly editorial meetings.
Misra attributes the success of Gaon Connection to its uniqueness.
“It is catering to the needs of, it is attending to the grievances, to the requirements of rural India which others are not doing”, says Misra.
Back in the village of Rae Bareilly, ‘Gaon Connection’ reporter Manish Misra is on the beat, scouting for stories.
He stumbles upon 90-year-old Lala, one of the older residents of the village.
Manish instantly clicks on his dictaphone, to record what Lala has to say, hoping to get a good story.
“Gaon Connection is unique. It has a social cause. We are doing something that no one has done before. It feels good that we have started something that no has done until now. We go from village to village, and interact with people who have never met a journalist in their life. They have never gotten an opportunity to talk about their issues,” says Manish.
At a local wholesale fruit and vegetable market in the city of Lucknow, ‘Gaon Connection’ reporter Bhaskar Tripathi navigates his way through hundreds of vendors.
“How’s business?” he wants to know.
But getting answers is not always easy – a problem Tripathi says he often encounters while reporting.
Tripathi says that since journalists rarely visit villages in isolated areas, people living there don’t open up to them easily.
As a result, when “we reach a village, introduce ourselves, and ask people living there what their problems are, they are hesitant to talk to us”, says Tripathi.
Gaon Connection covers developments in around 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.
Ever since its launch, the newspaper has quickly gained popularity amongst its readers.
63-year-old Chandprakash Shukla, the local head of a small village called ‘Jai Bajrangbali’ in the district of Rae Bareilly, is one of the first people to have subscribed to ‘Gaon Connection’.
Shukla says it is the village-oriented content of ‘Gaon Connection’ that makes it appealing to people living in rural India.
Shukla’s 38-year-old daughter-in-law, Ruby Shukla, also reads Gaon Connection.
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