BY Sevanthi Ninan| IN Regional Media | 06/04/2002


When the editor of Jharkhand`s leading daily hands out photocopies of articles written about his newspaper you can be sure they will include some about the adivasi journalists who have won awards from the region. They have written from time to time for Prabhat Khabar, and the paper is only too happy to claim association with them. Yet no adivasi journalist works for this paper. Or for the Hindustan Times or the Hindustan or Ranchi Express. And if you ask journalists in this state they would be hard put to name even one adivasi journalist who is a staffer with a publication in this region. They may be a couple or more, but you`d have to look for them.

Which is not to say that there are no adivasi journalists. There are, some fairly well known, and one young woman who runs a tea and samosa shop with her family in Ranchi has even been featured in the Sunday magazine section of the Times of India, the one that runs glossy profiles of film stars, industrialists and other beautiful people. After she won an award for excellence in rural journalism, Dayamani Barla has been made a celebrity by the media, which loves a good talking point. Both she and Vasavi, another tenacious free lance journalist, and winner of the Chameli Devi Award write for Prabhat Khabar but do not work there. They support themselves with research fellowships or non-journalistic work, such as the tea shop.

Then there is Sunil Minj, a cheerful young man who too writes whenever he can for the region`s newspapers. None of them have any problems getting space. Says the chief editor of Prabhat Khabar, Hari Vansh, 90 per cent of the freelancers in Jharkhand are adivasis. So why do newspapers not employ them? Vasavi is both well known and respected in Ranchi, but says quite candidly that no newspaper has actually offered her a job. Asks graphic artist Shekhar who has his own voluntary organization Judhav, if adivasis can be found to teach in college departments and in other fields, why not journalists? Indeed there no dearth of politically correct people in the academic and NGO world here who will say accusingly, see, no newspaper employs adivasi journalists.

Why is that so? The answer is an interesting one, and comes both from editors whom one asked, as well as from the adivasi scribes themselves. It has to do with opportunity, temperament, and the blurred divide between journalism and activism. When Prabhat Khabar took trainee journalists in 1991-92 one of them was an adivasi, but he left after six months to join politics. Hari Narain Singh, Resident Editor of the Hindustan in Ranchi says tribal youth do not come into this field for employment. Thanks to reservations they have a lot more opportunities. "Any adivasi who is educated enough can get a government job. He also has better avenues for promotions."

Singh makes the point that temperamentally adivasis do not like to be tied down to routine ten to five jobs. And if they have to give their freedom, they would like to give it up for something more lucrative than journalism, which pays poorly in this region. The other point he makes is that those who do freelance consistently for his paper would not

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