From ragpicking to reporting, tale of greenhorn reporters

Her life in the slums of the capital made 16-year-old Jyoti turn sensitive towards their living, only to become the youngest reporter of a tabloid — Balaknama (Voice of Children) — run by a group of street children.Having spent a significant period of her life in a slum cluster in Nizamuddin (New Delhi), Jyoti, a Class IX student, works assiduously along with other children to bring out the next issue of Balaknama.At least 24 reporters — among whom most were ragpickers — run the eight-page Hindi newsletter that mostly publishes stories on the condition and life of street children and is run from Green Park in south Delhi.

With the help of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Child Enhancement through Training and Action (Chetna), Balaknama focuses on the problems and vulnerabilities that the children roaming and begging on roads undergo. Balaknama has done stories on the activities of such children which include rag picking, dead bodies disposal from railway station, beggary, bonded child labour, human trafficking, sex rackets and drug abuse.Jyoti has been doing such stories for eight years now. Before that she was into rag picking, begging and was a drug addict too.

When a team of Balaknama reporters, including Jyoti, visited a slum in Badarpur for a story on child marriage, they were threatened. “We were threatened and were almost about to be attacked by the people in the slum,” Jyoti told IANS.“We did not only want to report the story but wanted to stop the marriage. We don’t know what happened to her,” she added.Shambu, the 17-year-old editor of Balaknama, used to sell vegetables with his father before he came in touch with Chetna. “Life changed after I met with people at Chetna. Had I not been here I don’t how I would have messed up with it,” he said.

“Most of the mainstream media does not cover the stories we do. Balaknama is the voice of children and reflects the ugly face of the world that street children face,” Shambu added.Apart from a team of 24 child reporters, Balaknama has 70 stringers.

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