It is, perhaps, unthinkable in today’s internet age to visualise bringing out a newspaper in the early 60s from a place without any connectivity –no roads and no telephones.
The newspaper not only came out, it flourished and is running into its 60th year now. Dandakaranya Samachar, often referred to as the spokesman of Dandakaranya, was started by a young journalist Tushar Kanti Bose whose family had migrated to India following Partition.
Given land in the Dandakaranya to settlea, Mr Bose was a journalist who had worked with several newspapers such as Jugantar and Amrit Bazaar Patrika before he started his own publication on January 12, 1959.
At that point Dandakaranya was a tribal populated areas comprising of , undivided Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh, Koraput and Kalahandi districts of Orissa and Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh as well as Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. It was spread over 80,000sq miles with Jagdalpur the district headquarter of Bastar in then Madhya Pradesh. Bastar is now in Chhattisgarh.
“We started as a multi-lingual weekly newspaper in Hindi, English and Halbi (local dialect of Bastar) making it a unique production of its type. It was particularly popular among the people working in different projects under the erstwhile Dandakaranya Development Authority and Dandakaranya-Bolangir-Kirandul (DBK) Railways and people in the adjoining areas,’’ explains Mr Bose, who is now the Editor-in-Chief. His wife, Manikuntala Bose is now the Editor.
“It was the first newspaper of the region started amidst the lack and shortage of fundamental amenities needed for a newspaper such as infrastructure, skilled manpower, raw materials and many other things. Inspite of all these hurdles, we have managed to sustain the newspaper for 60 glorious years,’’ the couple point out while recalling the difficulties they encountered while bringing out the publication as there were no telephones, electricity and other infrastructure.
“But we have brought out the newspaper for 60 years without a break,’’ they say.
What started as a bi-weekly in 1980 and then to a daily on 12th January, 1985. “We had to discontinue the Halbi and English editions because of lack of readership and even writers were difficult to find. So we stuck to Hindi which became very popular as it was the only newspaper of the region at that time,’’ Mr Bose says.
On 15th August 1994 Dandakaranya Samachar became the first daily to be printed in Web Offset Machine in any tribal district of the country and Manikuntala Bose who took over as the Editor of the newspaper became the first lady Editor of any daily newspaper in the country. Mr.Tushar Kanti Bose became the Editor in Chief from the day.
On 12th January 2015 after playing various roles at various levels, the couple’s son Bishwaroop Bose assumed the role of Executive Editor of the newspaper. Today Dandakaranya Samachar is being published simultaneously from Jagdalpur (Bastar) and Raipur with multi colour supplements covering whole of Chhattisgarh and Orissa, and competes with many other publications in and outside of Bastar. The publication has brought out special numbers to commemorate the history of the newspaper.
“Dandakaranya Samachar has followed the motto “Independent Thought, Impartial Expression” ever since it came into existence. We have kept ourselves free from political influence though most Chief Ministers – of undivided Madhya Pradesh and now Chhattisgarh—do call on me and take my advice. But all this has never influenced my brand of journalism,’’ says Mr Bose.
Dealing with the Left Wing Extremists was not easy for the newspaper. “There were pulls and pressures from the naxalites with threats to life also, but we have always tried to strike a balance and stand with the truth,’’ the couple explain.
Dandakaranya Samachar has never limited itself to news articles only but has always highlighted and encouraged the educative and social awakening programmes to enlighten the people of the region. It has also encouraged the literary beginners by providing space for their writings etc. and thus paving a way for many of them to earn state and country wide fame.
A teacher at heart, Mrs Bose became the Principal of a girl’s school in Jagdalpur when she came here after marriage, but gradually started her own school in the town. “I had nothing to do with journalism when I came here. I learnt writing from my husband. I began with writing articles and then tried my hand at editorials,’’ she says while recalling how the couple had sold the newspaper themselves outside their office on the morning following former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s death.
“I used to cycle several kilometres to gather news and it was a struggle to get the telephone line through,’’ Mr Bose says. “Lots of things have changed since the time we came here. There were no colonies, no infrastructure worth its name and people were so simple,’’ he says while narrating an incident when his car broke down on the roadside. Since it was late, he could not arrange for a mechanic, so he asked a local to keep an eye on the vehicle in the night. When the couple went to the spot with the mechanic, he saw the person at the same spot where he was the previous night. He the person took just Rs 20! Such was the sincerity.
Now, the next wave of change will happen when the Nagarnar Steel Plant becomes functional in a couple of months from now as it is likely to bring jobs and would result in development. “However, I hope it doesn’t kill the traditional art and craft of Bastar.’’