Development closest to rural Odisha on TV | Milaap

Development closest to rural Odisha on TV

During a field visit in Dungripali, Odisha, I met Suchitra Nayak, a very active lady who works at the Anganwadi in the village. Intrigued by her fluent Hindi, I asked her how she spoke the language so so well.  She was shy at first, but then she pointed at her cable television set. This plastic box makes a deep impact on the lives of these women in the hinterlands of rural Odisha. Suchitra watches most of the serials broadcasted on Star Plus and Colors. "Most of these stories are of women being ill-treated and how they take on the challenge of getting their rights," says Suchitra.
A view outside the mud houses with crumbling roads
In these remote villages where house are made of mud, there is no proper sanitation and clean water is never seen. But surprisingly, cable television has penetrated in places without basic amenities. People get entertainment and information by watching fascinating programs on cable TV. Television is having a distinctly helpful effect on these women in rural areas. Attitudes about women in rural India has always remained traditional. They are expected to cook and clean and to have lots of babies. These rural women don’t have a lot of control over their lives. But on TV, they can see some women making a different choice. A new reality is shaping up for them in their minds.

Suchitra's neighbours gathered around and joined the conversation. Most of the women said that they too watched television and could understand Hindi. Their children help them as they learn Hindi at school. I asked Suchitra if I can take her photograph. At first, she hesitated. Then darted into her house and came out wearing her new sari. I felt that there was the effect of watching snappily dressed women on TV. The small screen seemed to be informing them, among other things, of the power of being well-turned out. 

Suchitra, second from the left, in her new red saree with other neighbors 

The conversation soon turned to issues of their daily lives. The women talked about how their need for money was growing and how everyone wanted to build a pucca makaan (house made of bricks) and expand their livelihood through shops, farming, animal rearing and fish farming. Proper sanitation is still a distant dream but some of them say that they are willing to build a toilet with Rs12,000 that Swatch Bharat incentive scheme sanctions to them. 

This exposure to the outside world is becoming visible in their daily lives and is slowly but surely shaping digital India. Demonetisation, political news or Jan Dhan Yogna were only known to them through these TV channels. Government banks are far from these villages and private banks still don't have any existence here. Despite that, the women are aware of all government schemes. This was possible because of all the microfinance institutions, non banking financial companies, government-aided organizations, and cable television. I believe that watching TV impacts their lives faster than education in changing their outlook towards and making them informed citizens.