March 04, 2012

Audit your local councillor's work

How do you handle a situation like this?
The room is in darkness though it is just past 5.30 p.m. The place is new to me. Someone from inside beckons.
An emergency lamp spreads some light around us.
I carefully find a place to sit. And I restrain myself from joking about the power cuts.
I am meeting a prominent leader of the AIADMK in his backyard in Kodambakkam. And since this is our first time, perhaps it is not the wisest thing to spoof on power cuts.
(Wonder if there are spoofs on this subject online; consider the dozens that came alive after Angelina Jolie's leg show at the Oscars).
Back to the Kodambakkam house.
I am here to interview this AIADMK man, to seek information on civic projects in his zone and to explore ways in which our newspaper/web site can report local developments.
The interaction is friendly and lasts 20 minutes.
As other partymen assemble and as the room darkens, it is time to leave. But my host holds me back, beckons his woman secretary who already has a cover in her hands and requests me to accept a gift.
It is easy to say 'no thanks' and slip away. The man isn't embarrassed since this exchange takes place in the corridor.
I am.
'Gift cover journalism' like paid news, has flourished for a long time. In the 80s, my seniors on the political beat used to be given manila covers that had fifty - rupee notes inside and a passport size picture of the thalaivar.
I am surprised the practise of small covers for 'gifted' journalists still exists.
Our quest at our neighbourhood newspapers has been to report closely the record of elected local reps and local civic projects. We have been at it since the time the city Corporation Council was resurrected.
It has not been easy. We have been thrown out, sidelined and grudgingly accepted.
The zone in Adyar today informs us of its council meetings; it may not allow us to sit on the sidelines but shares information meant for people.
But we want to expand this coverage and process. And you may be able to help. You can help audit the local works and file reports. Highlight major local issues.
We want tech-savvy and civic-sensitive people to join in and be involved.
We will acknowledge your contribution. But you will not be given manila covers

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