‘We’, the people give ourselves HimVani
The severe winter in Himachal seems to be thawing and the days are getting warm and sunny. It seems the weather gods have relented to allow celebrations on February 14th. Well, today happens to be the second anniversary of HimVani.com. So here we are at the end of another milestone in our journey, which seems to have just begun. Ever since this initiative was launched, we have seen many ups and downs and the previous year was no different. But the important thing is – we still believe in ourselves, our belief that we can make a difference, and also the power of the masses.
Though we are still nowhere near what we intend to do, support from you all has been encouraging enough to make us move ahead. Being a citizen journalism based initiative, we have relied heavily on voluntary contributions and the HimVani family has never let us down. Though many-a-time we had run dry of content because either there was nobody to write or we had content which was not good enough, but every little contribution made a difference. There have also been trying times in our personal lives and many-a-time we have been challenged from within, but we stuck to the task and have continued to deliver. Though some of you may feel disillusioned by what we are claiming, but a good starting has been made and soon we all will see results at the ground level because we don’t do just the talking all the times. A lot is happening which, of course, is not visible on the website, but is very essential to our mission.
The basic premise to continue with a site like HimVani is quite simple. Media is increasingly moving towards becoming a money-minting machine as lesser attention is being given to social and developmental issues. The content is full of news about the government or about the markets. These are the entities which continue to fill coffers of most of the media companies. So we find little voice which challenges the authorities governing our daily lives. The civil society’s voice seems to have died away as mainstream present various marketing gimmicks in the garb of news. So here come efforts like HimVani, India Together and Info Change India. Alternative journalism efforts which provide space to civil society efforts to make this world a little better.
Last year we established relationships with organisation like Lok Vigyan Kendra, SUTRA, Society for Disabled and Mountain Forum Himalayas. HimVani ran campaigns ranging from fund raisers to support herbal plantations in Chamba to supporting a heart transplant of a poor child. During elections HimVani supported efforts of Association for Democratic Reforms in running an election campaign and acted as a partner in disseminating information about election nominees to the common masses. Another high came when department of tourism accepted some of our recommendations to train Dhaba owners along Kalka-Shimla highway.
Diversity of views continues to be another issue plaguing the media. Most of the media houses are now identified with one political party or the other. Increasingly the media is taking sides and passing verdicts on issues without allowing debates. An observation in Shimla we find newspapers avoid writing about issues which are in the courts. HimVani being a citizen journalism initiative presents more diverse viewpoints from all sections of the society because unlike traditional media houses the editorial rights are given to more than one person. So effectively, instead of an editor, HimVani has an editorial board which sticks to the editorial policy. As co-owners, each and every contributor on HimVani can become an editor provided he or she earns it. Yes, we are not just preaching but practicing work place democracy.
So what future has in store for us? Well, HimVani is in a transition phase from being a pure online based entity to one with presence in the real world. We are now trying to define an ownership structure for HimVani which is more on co-operative principles, so that each and every associate gets to share the piece of the cake. Sustainability remains an issue, which we are trying to address through a revenue generating model. Soon we will be launching a state-wide campaign to enrol citizen journalists. Sourcing of quality content will be managed by imparting training to our citizen journalists and there efforts will be rewarded by recognitions and supplementary source of income. We also intend to reach out to villages where even a newspaper is not available and give them a voice through HimVani. In the coming year, you will also see a more active, vocal and activist version of HimVani walking hand-in-hand with developmental organisations.
We intend to be the voice of every resident of Himachal not just figuratively but effectively, and we have enough ideas and fire to make that happen. What we require is support from you all, be it in words,action, time and money.
Let’s make it happen, together !