Navi Umed - New Hope
  by Hemant Karnik

Visit our Facebook page : Navi Umed
‘NaviUmed’ – A Refreshing Novelty on the Social Media.
The Marathi page of positive human interest stories `Navi Umed’ meaning New Hope is run by Sampark. The page is a part of our engagement with UNICEF to promote the cause of Child Rights among Maharashtra legislators. On the backdrop of the vicious, aggressive atmosphere in the social media, readers feel hopeful when they read Navi Umed page. It started in April 2016 and is continuing till date without a break. All this has been made possible on account of the support of UNICEF.
Since there has been no such Marathi facebook page acting as a platform for positive stories coming straight from the field and addressing a spectrum of readers ranging from Metro residents to draught-prone areas of interior Maharashtra, there was no ready model or Sampark to follow. The page and its various aspects evolved with time and experience.
Navi Umed is a Maharashtra-centric non-celebrity page where the common man with a conscience is the hero. The page treats politics and bureaucracy as integral parts of social structure and accommodates their better aspects in its posts. The language is Marathi which produces an emotional link with the Marathi ethos of Maharashtra legislators and also of the aspiring rural youth. According to the page statistics, among our readers 74% are between age group of 18-44. The page doesn’t talk only about problems. It talks about the problems along with solutions found and applied by people, villages, teachers, bureaucrats, elected representatives, NGOs etc.
Team ‘Navi Umed’ comprises of young women and men representatives from 22 districts of Maharashtra, 5 from Mumbai and one Editor cum Coordinator. Human interest stories from the districts in form of text / photo features / videos are sent for publication. No story is published without cross verification: authenticity is important. The representatives are local journalists who know the district, geographically, culturally and socially. They look for socially relevant initiatives in their areas and collect information through visits and interviews. They send their stories in form of text, photos or videos to the Editor who trims them to size. She also verifies and supplements these stories if need be. They are then scheduled for publication on the page. One or two fresh stories are published every day on the page. The teaser of the next day’s story is published earlier evening, which too receives good response from the readers. The issues such as child education, girl child, menstrual hygiene, parenting, farming, drinking water and sanitation, drought etc are covered. We don’t make the stories artificial and propagative. But the innocence and genuineness in the story is well preserved. Later, a cartoon on some contemporary issue was introduced to add spice.
Features of Navi Umed :-
a) Reach : All the stakeholders in the story are tagged. The stakeholders include the organisation or the personalities responsible for the activity, the beneficiaries, the local Government machinery and the people’s representatives. In many places the elected representatives have their followers / associations who further disseminate the story. Right from its inception, Sampark has been more of a network of socially aware activists, journalists and voluntary organisations. All of them are tagged. They, in turn, share or ‘like’ the stories and also make comments. Each of these actions helps take the reach to the corners of the State of Maharashtra and beyond. Currently, organic likes of the page has crossed 14 thousand and post reach has crossed the figure of 2 lakhs.
b) Timing : Our research has revealed that the movement on facebook reaches its peak a little before noon and continues into the progressing day. Accordingly, the posts are scheduled to be published at 11 AM every morning and 6 PM in evening.
c) Form : Facebook statistics tells us that a majority of the visitors use their smart phones to access Facebook and to read Navi Umed stories. The average time span devoted by a reader is short and so the Navi Umed stories too are not much more than 400 words long.
d) Profile of the visitor : It is important to note that 74% of the readers of the NaviUmed page fall in the 18 to 44 years age group. They come from 35 countries and 42 cities. It is common knowledge that the social media are frequented more by the youth; but it is a revelation that they are attracted to positive, constructive stories too. Further, the majority of the visitors belong to the interior Maharashtra, a section not reached by the mainstream print media as intimately. As a result, stories on Navi Umed are shared later by the mainstream print media; whereas Navi Umed has a rule not to publish a story which has already appeared in print.
e) Response : The response is overwhelming and now we are being approached directly by the innovators farmers, parents, etc. The authenticity and the work-culture approach helps tremendously to boost the image of the legislators when their activities are highlighted on the page.
f) Impact : The District Administration takes notice. Corrective measures are adopted. Individuals offer their help, both in the form of financial aid and expertise. And the common readers are happy to note that there are people who keep working at improving the social and economic fabric of the society no matter what. Those who take the initiative are happy to have received exposure and to have attracted appreciation.
We are happy to conclusively prove that the social media is not just a virtual world indulging in gossip, war of words and self-promotion; it can also be productively used to promote positivity in the community. A weighty gratification indeed.

The food availability in urban areas differs by income level, as does every other aspect of urban life and health. The quality and quantity of food available and affordable to lower income families is such that they suffer nutritionally. Water supply through taps is another health hazard since urban governing bodies in India are yet to wake up to the need to supply clean water to the residents all the year round. Water supply systems need regular maintenance and main pipes installed decades ago remain a regular rupture hazard in older urban areas, as is evident from the frequent pipe bursts in Mumbai in the recent past.
The concentration of populations in urban areas also means an increased accumulation of waste products. Removal of human waste and garbage is a major concern in any city. Trash and garbage that accumulate in urban areas must be disposed of safely. The garbage incinerator is not feasible due to both volume of material and the air pollution caused by burning. Landfill disposal requires moving the material outside the urban boundary, and safety requirements for landfills are being increasingly flouted. While many areas do not want any waste disposal nearby, the acceptance and processing of urban waste has been welcomed by some economically suffering 'backward' areas. Efforts to recycle waste have met with varying degrees of success. Little attention is being paid to the steller service ragpickers are rendering. The collect various items from the garbage and the trash cans and sort them according to their utility. There is an elaborate system of picking up the sorted material and delivering it to reuse industry. The Municipal staff as also the general public is not appreciative of this service; on the other hand the poor ragpickers, majority of whom are women, have to face contempt from the public.

Both air and noise pollution are of great concern in urban areas. The need to move large volumes of materials into urban areas, and to move large numbers of people around within urban areas, means that there is a need to devise more environmentally sound means of locomotion and transportation will continue. People must be concerned not only with visible particulate matter (smoke and ash from fireplaces) but with a wide range of chemicals associated with the increase of chronic disease.
Urban hospital systems have provided a critical link in access to health care. Many hospitals, especially in the metro cities, have a long history of service. Public health system in India suffers from many problems which include insufficient funding, dearth of facilities leading to overcrowding and a severe shortage of trained health personnel. There is also a lack of accountability in the public health delivery mechanisms.
These are some of the reasons which have placed India at the lowest rank in the Human Development Index. According to the Planning Commission, the country has a shortfall of six lakh doctors, 10 lakh nurses and two lakh dental surgeons. This has led to a dismal patient-doctor ratio of 1 doctor for every 10,000 Indians. However, India holds the top position in migration of physicians to developed countries like UK and the US. We are subsidizing the healthcare of the more affluent countries! The much publicised National Urban Health Mission is yet to see the light of day. The scheme plans to monitor and improve the health of 22 crore people living in urban slums in 429 cities and towns. It was to be launched mid 2008 but the mission is yet to become functional. NURM is aimed at providing accessible, affordable, effective and reliable primary healthcare facilities to the urban poor.
The concentration of people also means that specialized services are economically viable. A person with a relatively unusual condition who lives in an urban area is more likely to find the needed care than a similar individual in a rural location. A number of schemes such as the Urban Malaria Scheme, National Filarial Control Program have been introduced for the urban population but the ills of urban healthcare in India are many. Overcrowding, poor housing, choked drains, high density of insects and rodents, lack of garbage disposal facilities, poor personal hygiene and hygienic conditions mar the Indian urban slums. Children are the worst sufferers under such conditions and to quote an example, a study has revealed that children under 2 years in the city of Ludhiana had 3.8 episodes of diarrhea per year.
The healthcare planning in India has so far focused on the rural areas. The urban slum (all clusters of 20-25 or more households having no roofs or having non-concrete roofs, and not having any facility of drinking water, toilets or drainage would be considered as slums. Earlier, the cluster size for identification of slums was 60 households) population in India is expected to be more than 930 lakhs by 2011 but they have to depend upon private medical practitioners for their health requirements. Most of these practitioners are either expensive or unqualified. Out of more than 3000 urban local government bodies, very few have some healthcare system in place.
There is a cultural angle to the issue of healthcare of the urban poor. The urban slums are full of migrant people, mostly men who have left their ancestral abodes and have opted to live in inhuman conditions in an alien environment to earn a livelihood to support them and their families. If the poverty is hopeless or, if there are no ties worth retaining, the whole family migrates. They leave their village behind but take their beliefs and traditions and customs with them. It is natural for them to seek the first shelter with their own kin. And so, within the boundaries of a modern, vibrant metropolitan city like Mumbai or Delhi, there exist clusters of people following antiquated customs and hazardous practices. No wonder fresh polio cases keep surfacing in Mumbai in spite of an alert and active healthcare delivery by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation and a long, persistent immunisation campaign.
The contradiction here is obvious. Good, affordable healthcare is available and yet the needy poor do not access it. They are conditioned to believe that such services are not meant for them. It is a classic case of Mohammed and the Mountain. Here too, the service providers have to develop a means to take Health to those who lack it. The strategy has to be two-pronged. On the one hand, the newly arrived migrant has to be made aware of his rights as a citizen. And, the healthcare staff also has to be indoctrinated to adopt a responsive mind-set.

Urban health issues are as complex as the city itself. The city cuts off the poor migrant from his emotional and conventional support systems. The city also offers him / her hope in the form of livelihood and access to better healthcare, better education opportunities for his offspring. But the City is the manifest future for the hopeful and the aspiring, and consequently urban healthcare is of paramount importance for a developing country like India.  


Advocacy on Child Rights


Maharashtra State Assembly and Council proceedings 2011-15 : Observations

Background :-

The proceedings of Vidhanmandal (VM) are not available on its website. Therefore we had to sit in the VM library for long hours to acquire and copy the information. Our project began in Sept 15 and the series of festivals followed. Soon after Ganapati and Diwali festivals got over the whole of VM library was shifted to Nagpur for the winter session as part of its routine business. Then we had to wait till mid Jan for accessing the required documents. The documents in library had arrived back to Mumbai but the boxes weren’t unpacked almost till the last week. So we decided not to wait any more and started working on the material we had gathered.
Our objective was to examine the proceedings of 2011-15 and find out how effectively the Child Rights (CR) issues were raised and discussed in the legislative assembly and council. To complete this work within the given timeframe, we decided to read the abridged reports of various sessions published by VM secretariat. As the reports are abridged, there is no word to word reporting of the business in the house. However documentation of the important activities required for our study was available in these abridged reports. We have analyzed and presenting the same information.


Our observations on the proceedings studied and analyzed :-

1) Most of the Qs raised are about the implementation….in fact about the non implementation of the laws, schemes, decisions, Ministers’ orders, GRs and even the Court verdicts. Members have pointed out the implementation issues again and again which puts a big question mark on the functioning of Executive, the implementing agency. 2) The issues about policy making, the basic function of the legislature have been seldom discussed. 3) 2 among the 4 identified districts for this project; Nandurbar and Gadchiroli are respectively at the bottom of Maharashtra HDI. However, the issues in these two districts do not reflect much in the discussions. Nandurbar is almost non existing district in the Augustus House. 4) The issues about corruption, scams etc are raised for a number of time. 5) Non implementation of the laws, schemes, decisions, orders, GRs and the need of suitable action is mentioned repeatedly. Such cases come from various districts, Talukas and villages in the state. It is felt that `Good governance’ remains just a slogan. 6) There are very few issues directly connected with CR. And hardly any issue which could be called genuine. 7) During 2011-15 (the period selected for study) there could be many Court verdicts regarding CR as courts are intervening in policy making to a large extent these days. We didn’t examine those verdicts as it was not part of our study. However, we should take note of the growing trend of using RTI and PIL for resolving the public interest issues. PILs are pressurizing governments to make pro-people policies. Going to courts is treated as the last resort. Still, it is seen that NGOs are increasingly approaching the judiciary for seeking justice and remedy. On the other hand it is seen that the implementation issues are often discussed in legislative houses. Is there any connect between the two? Are the constitutional powers (like Law making and controlling Executive) of the legislatures not being applied forcefully? Our study raises these questions. 8) Some issues raised during the study period were based on the reports prepared by the NGOs and information provided by social activists to the members seems encouraging. It is felt; NGOs could become a good and authentic source of information for the legislatures. 9) It is legitimate that MLAs represent their respective constituencies raise the issues of local concern. Our study underlines this inclination. However, the legislative assembly and council are law making bodies. For statewide policy and law making a broad, comprehensive views are expected. Such views are rarely evident in the studied legislative documents. UNICEF has a specific role to play in this regard. 10) It is observed that such a study of the legislative proceedings, which throws light on the contemporary trends of the functioning of legislation, could help shaping the advocacy initiative of UNICEF.


Sampark offers


Capacity building in Advocacy, communication including web writing

Managing Face book profiles and pages of the NGOs

Documentation of case stories
Advocacy campaign designing

Sampark is a non profit NGO working in the area of advocacy & communication. The organisation works primarily as a consultant for Governments & NGOs in the fields of development. Sampark helps NGOs advocate with government, provides relevant information to the NGOs, and helps build their advocacy skills.



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