Taaza Khabar: Walking Through Polling Booths
Director: Bishakha Datta; Cinematographer: Ranu Ghosh
Duration: 00:42:57; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 58.907; Saturation: 0.101; Lightness: 0.334; Volume: 0.118; Cuts per Minute: 2.816; Words per Minute: 30.350
Summary: Part of the footage of the film Taaza Khabar directed by Bishakha Datta and produced by Nirantar. The film is about the journey of a team of all women journalists of Khabar Lahariya (a grassroots newspaper published by the women themselves) through several obstacles. The determined efforts are to ensure the 62nd issue of Khabar Lahariya reaches its readers on time. The women are from Chitrakoot district in U.P. who report stories that find no space in mainstream media. It also portrays how these women have created their own space and established their identity in a context where patriarchy and caste-based discriminations are dominant. In this event, members of the Khabar Lahariya team travel through Chitrakoot during elections and unravel the politics of the gender space in the electoral system in the district. The event also opens up the topography of the district and how the reporters travel through difficult terrain in order to acquire news.
journalist, Khabar Lahariya, children
It is the day of the Gram Panchayat elections in Manikpur block of the Chitrakoot district in UP. [The Gram panchayats are local self-governments at the village or small town level in India. It is the foundation of the Panchayat system, which is a system of local governance in the Indian subcontinent. The Gram Panchayat is the basic unit of administration under the Panchayat Raj, which is a decentralised form of government in the Indian political system. Under this system, each village is responsible for its own affairs. For further information, refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panchayati_raj
People gather at the polling booths to cast their votes. The site of the polling is at Prathamik Vidyala (Elementary school) located in an open ground. Men and women, both young and old arrive at the school and stand patiently in a queue to await their turn to vote. Some of the women are carrying their children with them. Shanti, one of the Khabar journalists, speaks to the policemen at a distance.
Karwi, Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh
indira awas yojana
sc (scheduled caste)
st (scheduled tribes)
indira aawas yojana
Shanti and Manju (another Khabar Lahariya journalist) informally engage in an interview with a woman candidate who shares her experience and plans as a political figure in the village. She gives her reasons for standing for the elections a second time explaining that if she gets voted again, she would be able to complete the work she began during her previous term. She has done work for the development of the village such as improving roads, education, environment and land related issues. She works for women's issues too, helping them when they face abuse or with financial matters. When Shanti asks her if she feels hesitant to stand for elections because the rest of the candidates are all men, she immediately denies feeling any hesitation and says that as she does work as seriously as anyone else would, there is no need to feel out of place. She then talks about how, though she faces difficulties being a woman active in politics in a patriarchal setup, she continues to fight back because only then one can progress and not let men rule over women. Her campaigns involve her going from one village to another, door to door, speaking to men and women, distributing her leaflet and publicising her symbol.
Manju asks the woman candidate if her family supports her political venture. She tells her that her family used to initially support her, but they don't anymore. The village continues to support her and that's what keeps her going. They stand by her because they know about her work, her lifestyle and behaviour. She then mentions the specific issues that she would work on if she got elected the second time.
One of the specific issues that she would work on would be getting homes under the Indira Awas Yojana.
[About the Indira Awaz Yojana - The genesis of the Indira Awas Yojana can be traced to the programmes of rural employment which began in the early 1980s. Construction of houses was one of the major activities under the National Rural Employment Programme (NREP) which began in 1980 and the Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP) which began in 1983. There was, however, no uniform policy for rural housing in the states. For instance some states permitted only part of the construction cost to be borne from NREP/ RLEGP funds and the balance was to be met by beneficiaries from their savings or loans obtained by them. On the other hand, others permitted the entire expenditure to be borne from NREP/ RLEGP funds. While some states allowed construction of only new dwelling, others permitted renovation of existing houses of beneficiaries.
As per the announcement made by Government in June 1985, a part of RLEGP fund was earmarked for the construction of SCs/ STs and freed bonded labourers. As a result, Indira Awaas Jojana (IAY) was launched during 1985-96 as a sub-scheme of RLEGP. The objective of Indira Awaas Yojana is to primarily help with the construction of dwelling units for people below poverty line living in rural areas belonging to Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes, freed bonded labourers and non- SC/ST Categories. A maximum of 40% of the total IAY allocation during a financial year can be utilised for construction of dwelling units for non-SC/ST BPL categories.
Indira Awaas Yojana dwelling units should normally be built on individual plots in the main habitation of the village. The houses can also be built in a cluster within a habitation, so as to facilitate the development of infrastructure, such as, internal roads, drainage, drinking water supply etc., and other common facilities. Care should always be taken to see that the houses under IAY are located close to the village and not far away so as to ensure safety and security, nearness to work place and social communication.]
B: Shanti it has started now
Shanti (S): What did you think of that you are contesting the election again?
Contestant (C): I have done work for village development including that of land, roads, environment, education and others. However there are some work that is pending that of land and property. So I am contesting the elections to complete my work. And the women in the village also feel the same
S: Mostly you work on women's issues?
C: Yes I work for women's rights, if they are abused or assisting them on property and financial issues and supporting them through their struggle, this is mainly my work.
S: There are only men contesting, don't you feel hesitant?
C: Well I don't really care if it is a women or a man, I have worked with both men and women, so I do not feel any hesitation. I can talk and do my work, so there is no problem, maybe I am in minority and I am a woman, I do not feel awkward. Neither am I hesitant to work with men or move around with them.
S: If you win what kind of work would you do now?
C: If I make it this time I will work for rights, whether for men or for women, I will work towards development, that's what my aim is.
Voice (V): It is a patriarchal set up, don't you face difficulty in it?
C: Well there would be difficulty but if I do not face them then I would not progress
If we don't struggle and let men rule over us, that is no solution. The fact of the matter is one should not succumb to the pressure, I am not going to give up and sit back. I will fight and progress and do my work.
V: During the campaign did you face any difficulty?
C: No I did not have hurdles during the campaign, or receive threats. I went to all the voters houses and spoke to everyone whether men or women and gave them my leaflet and informed them of my symbol. From certain villages women are questioned as to why they are moving about door to door, but for me I had no such issues.
S: So there was no external pressure on you?
C: No there was no pressure
S: What support did you receive form the family?
C: Well once upon a time my family supported but now they don't. My village though supports me, I have the support if the villagers.
S: Did you family ever question you?
C: Well when they did the villagers all knew about it, about my behaviour, lifestyle and the way I have worked for development. So they did stand by me.
S: If you win for the second time what will be your development strategy?
C: If I win I would work towards getting homes under the Awas (under the Indira Awas Yojana-refer to description), getting pension for senior citizens, improving the drainage system. Would try and develop electricity in the village and try to get land for the landless to eradicate poverty, this is what I plan to do.
V: Do you think you will win this time?
C: We will have to wait till the results are declared however there is hope. The rest God knows.
V: How much is your chance of winning?
C: That I can't really say, I have to wait till the results are declared.
S: What all work have you done previously?
C: Previously I have worked on Land, roads, canals, drainage, wells…all of this work I have done.
V: What is the environment like?
C: That depends on the voters, yesterday there was a little chaos, however today there it depends on who the voters vote for.
S: People complain that the hospital is far away and the roads are also not well connected, what are you thinking about that?
C: I have thought about it already. There would be connectors constructed from several directions to the main road, if I win this is a primary task that will be accomplished. About the hospital there is a government clinic ahead but because it is dysfunctional and does not have doctors it is quite problematic. I have spoken to the government about this.
S: So you have not given up?
C: So why should I give up? I have worked all these years and I will work towards development, the village is supporting me. So there is no reason for me to give up.
S: Have the jungle men created any pressure on you?
C: Well the public can tell you better, because I have never faced it, so I really do not know. I have not met them.
Kavita, (another Khabar Lahariya journalist) looks nervous as she starts to report on the Gram Panchayat elections. She gets more comfortable once she starts to speak. She gives details about the election polls, the number of candiadates out of which only one is a woman and the percentage of women in the number of voters. The camera falters this time and Kavita is asked to repeat. When she starts the next time, she forgets what she has to say, stops speaking and looks uneasy and anxious. With the encouragment of Ranu (cameraperson) and Bishakha, she gives one last perfect take.
Kavita (K): This is Chitrakoot district's Manikpur block's gram panchayat. Today is the Panchayati Raj elections. There are six contestants out of which one is a woman. Her name is Sonia. There is one polling booth where the votes have started from seven in the morning. Till ten-thirty there are 190 votes cast out of which 75 are women. As per the police administration there situation is peaceful. According to village sources some voters were threatened. The polling would continue till seven in the evening. I am Kavita, journalist from Khabar Lahariya.
V: Get on
K: This is Chitrakoot district's Manikpur block's gram panchayat. Today is the Panchayati Raj elections. There are six contestants out of which one is a woman. Her name is Sonia. There is one polling booth where the votes have started from seven in the morning. Till ten-thirty there are 190 votes cast out of which 75 are women. Sources say the number of votes here are low. As per the police administration there situation is peaceful. According to village sources some voters were threatened. The polling would continue till seven in the evening. I am Kavita, journalist from Khabar Lahariya.
K: This is Chitrakoot district's Manikpur block's gram panchayat. Today is the Panchayati Raj elections. There are six contestants out of which one is a woman. Her name is Sonia. There is one polling booth where the votes have started from seven in the morning. Till ten-thirty there are 190 votes cast out of which…
V: Sorry, Sorry (Camera Shakes)
V: Yes, say
K: This is Chitrakoot district's Manikpur block's gram panchayat. Today is the Panchayati Raj elections. There are six contestants out of which one is a woman. Her name is Sonia. There is one polling booth where the votes have started from seven in the morning….(Breaks up) I am forgetting it…
V: It is going good
V: Start again
K: From the beginning?
B: For one last time
K: Last time…
K: This is Chitrakoot district's Manikpur block's gram panchayat. Today is the Panchayati Raj elections. There are six contestants out of which one is a woman. Her name is Sonia. There are 752 voters in the list. There is one polling booth where the votes have started from seven in the morning. Till ten-thirty there are 190 votes cast out of which 75 are women. Sources say the number of votes here are low as compared to the Karvi Block. As per the police administration there situation is peaceful. According to village sources some voters were threatened. The polling would continue till five in the evening. I am Kavita, journalist from Khabar Lahariya.
Cows graze in the fields on a windy afternoon. Manju and Kavita walk past a slushy road, and wet their legs in the water. They walk through a dense and green forest on red soil, stones, rocks and uneven roads. They stop by leisurely at a stream to wash their faces and feet. The skies are turning sightly cloudy, and there are hills at a distance. The two women walk on a stone road, away from the camera towards a long winding path.
Bishakha (B) : Done,
B: You want me to hold this, lest you fall.
Meera, Mithilesh and Shakila walk into a polling office. They meet the electoral officers who are sitting at the desk, asking them questions about the election results and taking notes. An old woman arrives in a cycle rickshaw and is carried by a young man into the polling office where she gives her vote. An old man, with a walking stick, is similarly escorted by a young man into the room. Voters line up close to the desk and await their turn to cast their vote. The old man and woman are helped back into the cycle rickshaw. Once they are settled, the journalists ask him about how he decided on the candidate he voted for. The old man, however, does not answer the question and says he is unwell and can't say anything.
Voice: Hold the rickshaw, it is moving away. They need to get down slowly
Voice: Who are you going to elect as the pradhan?
Old Man: I am not well
Voice: You have come such a long way, you must have thought of something and come
Old Man: I can't say anything
Meera reports about how voters, in spite of being unwell, injured and unable to walk, still made it to the polling office to cast their vote. This is to emphasize the presence of the two senior citizens who arrived despite being unwell and unable walk without support to exercise their right to vote. This clip is a favored representation of poll reportage in India, where citizens overcome several obstacles like space, distance, illness, old age and injury to make it to the polls to cast their vote.
Mira (M): These four voters who have come from the Patak village far away. Some of them are ill some injured and some too old to walk, therefore they have come in a rickshaw. They have come all the way to cast their vote.