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mail today- 26-6-08 page-13
Home makers now become news makers
Maithili e-paper to focus on positive news in Bihar
By Sajjan Singh Thakur in New Delhi
IN A QUIET corner of Patna â€” surrounded by news of flooded roads, kidnapping and government apathy â€” six housewives would rather see the brighter side of the state. They have started an e- newspaper in Maithili that aims to bring to fore the positive aspects of Bihar. To be launched on Independence Day, Shamad â€” message in Maithili â€” is the first e- newspaper in the ancient language spoken by around three crore people in the world. The beta version will run on a shoestring budget of Rs 1,100 per month and is already available on shampadak. wordpress. com . The journey hasnâ€™t been all that easy for Kumud Singh, Preetilata Mallik, Mamata Shankar, Susma and Chhavi, especially because they donâ€™t have any experience in journalism or publishing content on the web. Besides, three of them have children and joint families to take care of. The sixth person in the group wishes to remain anonymous. â€œ But itâ€™s been exciting and enriching,â€ says Singh, who is the web publicationâ€™s editor. Despite having studied only till Class XII, she is leading a group of women graduates. Not only is the editorial panel made up of only women, they prefer to use shamadia ( correspondent) for the stories instead of giving their bylines. Together, with the help of Singhâ€™s husband and Delhi- based journalist Ashish Jha, the Patna homemakers plan to position Shamad as a weekly newspaper on the web. Theyâ€™re also planning a print edition once the virtual avatar acquires readership. â€œ Women will be the torchbearers of a new Bihar,â€ says Jha, who recently shifted to the Capital from Patna. â€œ This e- newspaper will be a tribute to the rich cultural heritage of Bihar as well as the beautiful Maithili language.â€ Jha works for a Hindi newspaper in Delhi, but his heart lies in promoting his mother tongue. He has been mentoring Shamad â€™s editorial panel and feels they are now ready to make things happen on their own â€œ even though we miss our deadline most of the timeâ€. One of the core beliefs of the group is that the newspaper must concentrate on Biharâ€™s development and not its backwardness. Some stories published on the website include one written by a local leader of the Communist Party of India ( ML), Kumar Anil, titled Macaulay, not Mao rules Jehanabad . Another story is about how five internet cafes are changing the lives of villagers in the remote hamlet of Kakraul in Madhubani district. A third features Katihar, an area known for annual floods, but is now host to a medium- scale BPO that employs more than 150 locals. â€œ Shamad will try to negate Biharâ€™s feeling of nothingness in a language that has found very little financial support over the years,â€ said Jha. True, there have been few Maithili publications in Bihar and one of its most prominent â€” Mithila Mihir â€” shut shop in the 1980s after its promoters backed out due to lack of advertising. Today, there exist very few Maithili publications, some of the last ones being Antika and Videh . Several stories are also sourced from local magazines, television stations and news agencies. In some cases, Jha and news editor Mallikâ€™s husband, Mithilesh, provide additional inputs. â€œ This is one of the many ways we could serve our language. We thought we should do something before it is lost forever,â€ says Mallik. However, the six housewives have maintained a fine balance between home and work. â€œ Our families have been supportive,â€ says Mallik. Despite being a unique venture, the e- newspaper has attracted some criticism. â€œ Some have termed us onesided, while others say we are the state governmentâ€™s mouthpiece,â€ says Jha. Susma wrote in her edit piece, â€œ We believe in publishing what isnâ€™t there in other dailies and magazines.â€ Not surprisingly, her edit is titled Hajir chhi hum ( We have arrived).
sajjan. thakur@ mailtoday. in