How does a neighbourhood news organisation report on what is the biggest development in life without local official spokespeople? Without local information channel?
This is the big challenge that Mylapore Times has faced from late March.
This when the newspaper has a small team, only one staffer is on the ground and the ares is well spread out.
Much of the news and stories have thus far come from people, community heads, activists, and some government staff.
It has been an ardous journey when the best strategy for the state would have to act locally and communicate locally – it is starting to act locally by appointing a minister for some zones but neither ministers nor senior officers save for one communicate. The local communication channel has never been there.
On March 25, Mylapore Times started our reportage on the virus pandemic and the lockdown. Since then, Chennai Corporation’s zonal health officer (zone 9) and a Sanitary Inspector attached to San Thome zone were giving regular updates on the situation in the neighbourhood.
With the help of their inputs, MT could get confirmed information about the virus cases in Mylapore.
And MT could report on the following stories.
1. The virus containment activity at San Thome in detail.
2. The step by step process involved in the sample collection process in Mylapore.
3. Share the experience of a virus-positive person from VOC Street, Teynampet, after he recovered.
But since mid-April, MT staff were unable to get in touch with these staff as both the officers got busy. However, the zonal officer continued to share details of virus cases on WhatsApp. But soon, she said she would not be able to give details as she was working ‘ till 10 p.m.’. She was exhausted and this was understandable.
Later, two local area GCC ( civic body) engineers and two area police officers monitoring the containment zones and one woman animator provided information regarding the virus cases.
The DCP responds when we need to seek details on sensitive / tricky issues.
Since June 1, only the animator responds to MT’s queries, that too very rarely. The mobile phones of other officers are either busy/not reachable or MT’s calls would not be attended.
The boss of the Teynampet Chennai Corporation zone ( zone 9) – called Regional Deputy Commissioner – RDC – in which almost all of Mylapore falls, based in his office in Lake Area, Nungambakkam, a IAS officer does not respond to messages. Two messages never got a reply. Nobody else at the Zone 9 office is contactable.
Only the RDC of Adyar zone, who looks after Ward 173, the hot zone in Mylapore south has responded to key queries. But has not issued messaging targetted at the Ward. All GCC seems very centralised, so local specific information is sparse.