Enabling a climate for Hindi science journalism

BY BHARAT DOGRA| IN Regional Media | 21/01/2017
For 25 years, Srote Feature Service and Journal has tried to enhance scientific temper in society by generating articles for readers of Hindi publications.


Srote Feature Service and Journal have contributed significantly  to Hindi  science journalism and  education. Trying to make an impact with limited resources, Srote (meaning source) has evolved a unique strategy that combines their science journal and educational materials with articles and features which are able to reach a much wider readership through widely read Hindi newspapers and magazines.  Srote Editor Dr Sushil Joshi talks to Bharat Dogra:


Q: When was Srote started and with what objective?

A: Srote was started in 1989 as part of the People’s Science Movement in the country which had peaked somewhere in the late 1980s, culminating in the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (BJVJ). This was a joint effort of several People’s Science groups.  After the Jatha completion, the groups chalked out future plans and strategies for promoting a scientific temper in society. One idea was to have a forum for intervention in the popular media (which was mostly print media at that time). The idea was to feed good quality science-based material to publications regularly to fill the gap we saw.


Q: The diversity of the issues you cover is impressive. In recent issues, you covered antibiotic resistance, new techniques of air-conditioning, pollination, the fossil remains of dinosaurs in Narmada Valley, the  ecological crisis, new issues in chemotherapy, and a new drill that can prepare for rescue work during earthquakes. How is the response to this wide range of articles and news?

A: We want to cover topical issues while also responding to the requirements of science education in the form of inter-actions with teachers and students. Diverse articles are good for newspapers and magazines. However, it is not easy to keep track of all the places where Srote articles are published or to get readers’ feedback, particularly on specific articles. So it is good that finally various articles are brought together in the journal and are available in a compact way for educational use. To reach more people, publication in newspapers is very useful. These opportunities, however, are limited for us as our wider educational inclinations tend towards more detailed coverage of emerging and controversial issues like genetic engineering and climate change and space in newspapers is limited. Recently, we worked hard to make available several detailed writings of Dr. Madhav Gadgil in Hindi but space in publications is limited.  


Q: Who are some of your contributors?

A: Several leading science writers as well as scientists have been writing for Strote. These include Dr. D. Balasubramanian, Professor P. Balaram, Dr. Kishore Pawar, Shri Pramod Bhargava, Shri S. Ananthnarayanan, Narendra Devangan, Navneet Gupta, Sandhya Roychaudhury, Dr. Ashwin Sai Narayan Sheshshayee, Dr. Bhas Bapat, Dr. Rampratap Gupta, Sunil Gupta, Bimal Shrivastava, Dr. Vijaya Kumar Upadhyaya. Our list of writers includes senior social activists who write about the scientific aspects of their work.


Q: Please say a little more about your strategy for reaching more readers.

A: We publish a 40-page journal every month. In addition, two or three articles and news items are released every week to newspapers and magazines and others who may like to share in smaller groups. Hence our material gets read and used at several levels. We try to give good terms to newspapers  - low subscription rates, even lower rates for smaller publications and finally the choice also of paying only for the selected and published articles.


Q: Who publishes your articles regularly?

A: These are published in several newspapers but those who use our articles very regularly include Hindi Ajit from Punjab and Ranchi Express from Jharkhand.  Deshbandhu has several editions from Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi and our articles are published very regularly in all these editions. Other publications including magazines which publish us more or less regularly include Milap, Paryavaran Digest, Urja Times, Science News and Views etc.


Q: Apart from releasing to newspapers, do you also make educational use of these articles in schools etc.?

A: Many of the articles released as Srote dispatches have actually been inspired by the questions that people, especially teachers, ask. So these articles are used as reading material in teachers’ training and orientation. Many other groups working with teachers have also made extensive use of the Srote material in their educational efforts. That is why the annual bound volumes of Srote have become an important resource material.


Q: Who brings out Srote and who supports it or provides financial help?

 A: Eklavya, a NGO with its head-office in Bhopal which works in the field of school education, publishes Srote from its own internal funds. In the beginning, the National Council for Science and Technology Communication  supported the effort but this was withdrawn around 10 years back.


Q: What difficulties and problems do you face in expanding  your reach?  

A: Firstly, the priorities of newspapers  have changed in such a way that there is less space for the kind of articles we release. The emphasis now is more on films, religion (including vastu and astrology), careers and crime.


Q: Do some subjects get special attention?

A: There are two main considerations in the material sent out. One, of course, is the importance of the subject, which might be from the point of view of science or from the point of view of its relevance to society. Second is the availability of suitable material which depends on authors who are willing to write in the given time frame. One of the problems is that there are not many persons from a science background who are willing to try their hand at writing scientific articles for a popular audience.


Note: Srote features can be contacted at srotefeatures@gmail.com


Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist.




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