Sainath's PARI to focus on rural India, narrate untold stories of everyday lives

New Delhi: Laxmi 'Indira' Panda, the only woman freedom fighter from the state of Odisha, is now 87. At a time when nationalism and patriotism have been a debate in the mainstream public discourse, Laxmi is among thousands of ordinary rural Indians who fought selflessly against the British imperialism. But unfortunately, she has been denied the status of a freedom fighter by the Centre despite serving the Indian National Army (INA) constituted by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

She is the only Oriya woman who joined the INA and was posted at its camp in Burma.

Rural women at work. Image courtesy PARI

Rural women at work. Image courtesy PARI

Since the state government recognises her as a freedom fighter, she is entitled to a meagre monthly pension of Rs 1,000 but she has not even got this sum for years as the government has no record of her residential address.

She lives in one of the low income village settlements at Jeypore town in Koraput district of Odisha.

When journalists go to meet her, she takes out a photograph and shows it to them, where she could be seen wearing an Army uniform with a gun hanging around her shoulder. Dejected on account of the Central government’s reluctance to identify her as a freedom fighter, Laxmi says he has been denied the status because she never went to a jail. To be recognised as a freedom fighter, is it necessary to go prison? She asks.

The story of Laxmi is one of more than 300 stories put up on PARI (People's Archive of Rural India), an online archive that throws light on the complexities of "everyday lives of everyday people" of rural India through audio-visual, still photographs and print stories. The website was launched by much celebrated journalist and former The Hindu rural affairs editor Palagummi Sainath, a face of rural journalism in India, in a jam packed conference hall at the India International Centre in New Delhi on Sunday.

The Magsaysay Award winning journalist described PARI as a medium that could fill the gap of information between rural and urban India or "India and Bharat". "It is an archive and a living journal that is aimed at recording the everyday lives of everyday people. The initiative is aimed at connecting a third of the nation with other the two-thirds as most of their roots lie in rural India," Sainath told the gathering of journalists, activists and students at the launch ceremony.

PARI aims to extensively document the 833 million people who inhabit the rural parts of India, alongside immense diversity and who do not get to be heard in the mainstream media.

"The archive is completely different from state archives that serve the purpose of a particular class of the society," he claimed, adding that the content of the website is available to all for no charge along with videos and photos that are free for download for non-commercial purposes.

"It is an educational tool for students, teachers, schools and universities who - through this diverse digital media - could get to know about the daily lives of millions of common people who remain cut-off from urban centres of the country. This could also be a library of research for those who are working on issues concerning rural India. Its contents are free for download for non-commercial purposes," said Sainath, the founder of the website.

One of the distinguishing features of this website is, it is based on the concept of epic story telling. It means, if a video is talking about a tribal woman, the narrator would be the woman herself. The videos on the site will be backed by articles and research papers, concerning the issue. Thus, giving first hand information to those who are seeking for it, he said.

"People’s archive will serve as a source of information to those in the urban spaces from rural parts of India, thus creating awareness among this section about people from rural spaces. This awareness might create some pressure on the government to think about these unheard voices, who struggle to live their each day in extremely deplorable conditions," Sainath said.

Updated Date: Jan 06, 2015 19:18 PM

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