Speaker: Mr. Dhimant Parekh, founder of The Better India
Facilitator: Vrinda Aggarwal, Journalist
Compiled by: Somya Jain
Date: 27th April 2020
The facilitator requested the speaker to share any particular story that has stuck with you while covering stories on NGOs or people doing a lot of work on the ground . The speaker replied by giving an account of an instance. It was the time of around 2009. One of the first stories that he came across. It was about a photography club that was run completely by visually impaired people. They actually saw the photos that they had taken and all the photos which were taken, they were able to listen to the surroundings and beautiful photos of birds flying. More importantly for him, when they published the story, a couple of weeks later a visually impaired girl got in touch and said that the story had completely changed her life because she always wanted to pursue photography and people around her would discourage her. But when the story got published, she got really inspired and it changed her life.
The facilitator then asked him about any corona coverage that they were doing and is there any story that has struck with him and is really inspiring. To which Mr Parekh shared that amidst this crisis they are seeing so many people step up, really go there and help out other people, right. We have numerous heroes that are coming together and it’s been across everything. There have been many fundraises for the daily wage workers that are really helping, there have been so many tech startups that have been innovating and they can build products that can help in this crisis. There was another story which is very interesting, from Tamil Nadu. There was a man who had his car and he realized that in the villages nearby, the ambulance system wasn’t able to come in. So he actually converted his small car into an ambulance during lockdown and he has self saved the lives of a pregnant woman, a senior citizen who had fallen down, and all of this during the lockdown.
The facilitator then added by saying that even people are risking their lives by helping other people, like being on the street even though they are wearing masks and gloves but it’s not easy to be out there. It’s truly incredible and very positive. Then she asked him about how his journey has been and how people have come forward, helped with his stories and how he has been able to build that community right now. To this, he answered that during a crisis like this, more and more people are getting anxious. They can see a lot of people are reaching onto them. What they started noticing is that a lot of people in this crisis are seeking out inspiring and hopeful content. A lot of people started thanking us for the kind of content that we were making. They realized that they need to double down in terms of everything that we do. In the last one month alone, they got down to launching the whole slew of things. The first thing they launched was a covid-19 positive news tracker. The second thing they started was a positive news collective. They are on their way to launching a children’s magazine, then they will put up a fundraiser called Better Together. Then they started a daily positive news show called Now more than ever. They have also started a positive daily newspaper which goes out on WhatsApp and in fact today it’s reaching out to billions, where everyday you get the digest of all the amazing positive stories.
The topic of discussion changed to the security of journalists working on the ground level and is it similar in Mr. Dhimant’s organization and how is he taking any measures to protect them from covid-19. How are they reporting in such difficult times? Is technology helping somewhere in this direction? TMr Parekh answered this by saying that they don’t have people on the ground. What they do have is a large network of people working in the social sector who work in different sectors like animal conservation, water management and so on, and they are our main eyes and ears on the ground who send information to them. So this is sort of a larger part of sources. The second source is the reader’s community who send in a lot of stuff to them. The third is they have a lot of partner institutions who partner with them and institutions who work in certain areas of the development sector who send in the stuff. So it hasn’t impacted the way they have been working.
The facilitator then asked about the positive news on the environment that the organizations or the environmentalist groups and experts are seeing. The speaker replied that one of the things that recently was there was that the number of patients checking for Asthma has come down. They also kind of noticed the other thing which is in terms of the presence of flora and fauna. There are a lot of organizations that have been working around helping stray dogs. Yesterday only they covered a story about a person in Delhi who is actually nowadays feeding 400-odd stray dogs every single day. He arranges 50 KGs of food daily and he basically used to run a New Delhi based dog food service and when this all started to happen, he started kind of helping these start dogs and so there are a lot of such type of movements that they are seeing at the ground level where people are coming together.
Mr Dhimanth shared that for “Better India” it is fundamentally important for their mission is to take positive news to as many people as possible. So far, they have reached a large set of people through social media channels, but predominantly in English, and they are now in Hindi and Malayalam too. They hope to get into a lot more regional languages so that they can take this positivity there.