During the Relay team meeting, we exchange our stories, share lessons learnt and brainstorm together working out how to take those successful approaches forward. There are many examples of Relay’s impact, but the significant change story probably gives the most accurate picture of our positive interventions.
Here, Wahida Rohman, Relay Programme Associate from Panos South Asia shares her story of the most significant change:
We have seen many success stories in our fellowship programme on Dams and Development in Northeast India, but among those success stories, Nayan Jyoti Bhuyan’s performance should be considered as the most significant change story.
Nayan is a staff reporter at “Asomiya Pratidin”, the largest circulated Assamese daily in Northeast India. He has a significant importance in the journalists’ community, since he is invited to accompany the Prime Minster of India in some of his foreign visits. Before he became a part of the Relay fellowship programme, he covered issues related to environment, social and ethnic issues. Nayan’s reporting used up-to-date information. However, in his earlier articles, there was hardly any mention of research. This was maybe due to his absence of awareness about the idea of using research in reporting.
With the support from Relay fellowship programme, his reporting improved significantly, as he successfully used research findings from studies on the impacts of dams and government reports as a source for in-depth reporting on the issue of dams and development:
- In his first article “Conflict will be created in the name of development” that was produced as a part of the Fellowship programme, he quoted significant amount of research, e.g. The national hydro power policy report and highlighted issues of displacement and livelihoods of people.
- In his 2nd article “Public Disillusioned by Government’s Unclear Statement” Nayan quoted, among others, the Expert committee report( prepared by Dibrugarh University, Guwahati University and IIT Guwahati) and this story also focused on displacement and livelihoods as well as development, construction and engineering.
- Then in his 3rd published article “Threat of Big Dam: River Dolphins are in danger” he introduced the report of the International Union of Conservation of Nature, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and government data. In the second part of the article: “Protection of Dolphin will be a subject of challenge” Nayan captured stories of the dam affected people, their displacement and a loss of livelihoods.
Nayan Jyoti Bhuyan’s articles brought out new elements of the dams issue that had not been present in media coverage, focusing on various aspects like displacement, livelihood, biodiversity, construction and engineering using new sources of information. Another important element of Nayan’s articles is that he interviewed people most affected by dams during his field trips and these perspectives were included in the coverage.
We consider Nayan’s story most significant because he has received good responses from the citizens, community leaders and researchers concerned with the dam issue. He had received more than twenty phone calls from readers. He also received the information that the interpretations presented in his articles were discussed in the review meeting of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and after that they invited him to visit the project site. As a response to their invitation he visited the site in the end of October, 2011.
It should be noted that the fellowship programme was closed on 31st October 2011, but Nayan Jyoti Bhuyan is carrying work on the issue beyond October and trying to publish more and more data and research. One of the most significant examples is his recent article, titled “Arunachal Government has taken Rs.1,32,031.31 Lacks as advance payment for construction of 168 dams”, in which he has used lots of data. In this case, Nayan has not only used research, but undertook his own investigative reporting to find out the primary data providing the details of the financial transaction with receipt numbers and dates which is very rare in such reporting and brings new information to the public’s attention, as it shows the government’s commitment and financial gain from this transaction.
His other article Title “Big Dam: Politician from Arunachal Pradesh under control of Multinational companies. Part-2”, dated 05/02/2012, also cites research and field visits, highlighting possible corruption.
In our region, we don’t have reporter assigned for Development issues. Despite that Nayan is following the issue beyond Relay’s support: he has gone on many field trips, and produced more articles that have had a response from the public and from government officials. Therefore, we found Nayan Jyoti Buyan’s story to be the most significant among all.