In recent years, social media is being widely used as a tool for addressing social problems. Social media users utilize Twitter’s hashtags for Internet activism. The hashtag activism proved as the easiest way to reach to the government or to expose the real problem of the rural areas. It is also being used as a tool to give a voice to underprivileged groups. It often paves way for widespread discussion and allows for change to occur.
We talked to a girl from a non-descript village, Temari under paikamal block in Bargarh district, who uses Twitter for social work by drawing the attention of the government through her tweets. So far, she has solved around 3000 grievances of 30 districts of Odisha through her tweets.
Let’s Know a little bit more about Charubala Barik (Nick Name: Deepa) about her social media activism.
When did you start using twitter?
I started using twitter in May, 2019 when I was doing my PG. It was my 23rd birthday on April 24 and my parents gifted me a smartphone. That was the first time, I came across social media platforms.
Had you ever aspired to become a social media activist or the interest developed in the course of the time?
No, I had never thought of using Twitter in such a productive manner. I was inclined towards social work but never got a platform for the same. One of my acquaintances, Dibas Kumar Sahu, who works as a teacher in Bijepur, guided me regarding social media activism. He himself has been drawing the attention of government and administration towards various issues through his tweets for the last few years. I learnt from him and started identifying problems around me.
What challenges did you face in your initial days?
Fortunately I have never faced any such challenges in this journey. I recall an incident in my initial days, when we the BDO here was, Sadashiv Naik. When I initially tweeted the grievances to CMO, he was being pressurised by his seniors to resolve the problems at the earliest. Though he was bothered by it, still he never discouraged me, rather supported me.
What were the grievances you tweeted in initial days?
The house of a person in our neighborhood collapsed due to heavy rain. That was the first grievance; I tweeted and sought for assistance for him. I also succeeded in that attempt. He got Rs. 95,000 as compensation. My second tweet was for a person, who received grievous injury on his leg but he didn’t have the money for treatment. After my tweet, he got Rs. 10,000 from Red Cross. It encouraged me to continue my job to speak for the people on social media.
In the course of time, I came across many issues of people in my village, nearby Gram Panchayat as well as in my block. Most of them were grievances related to delay in release of pension and financial assistance. Fortunately, all my tweets were effective and I could help them get their deserved assistance. I also tweeted many civic problems and those were also resolved.
I started finding more problems by scanning the regional newspapers. I collected the clippings of news about problems in other districts and tweeted them tagging CMO Odisha, 5T, the concerned district administration and other authorities, who were supposed to resolve those problems.
Which are the district, problems of which you tweet the most? What was the best and most satisfying case, you resolved?
I have tweeted about a lot of problems of Koraput, Malkangiri and Nabarangpur. I could find many problems there. Those are tribal areas and lack a lot of basic amenities like water, roads and electricity. I have conveyed a lot of grievances of those districts.
Irrespective of how big or small the problem is, I get the same satisfaction every time a problem is resolved.
How many cases have you resolved so far? What do you do when you get a response on twitter?
Almost 90% of the problems, which I have tweeted, have been resolved. Upon not getting a response from twitter, I directly try to contact the officials to convey the problem. The ones which could not be resolved were usually bigger problems. I think those problems cannot be resolved with my attempts alone. But I still keep trying.
What other social work are you involved in?
Approximately 3000 grievances have been resolved through my tweets. Among my other works, I teach a number of school children in our block and I help people in many other ways with the help of my mother. During the lockdown, when the migrant labourers had come back to the village and in need of help, I worked to provide food. In case of other districts, I contacted the district administration officials (Collector and SP) and requested them to arrange food or transport facilities for the labourers.
What was a major problem you came across during lockdown?
During lockdown I came to know about a migrant pregnant woman who was stuck in Rourkela along with her four-year-old son. She stayed along a road for nearly 3 days. After knowing about it, I tweeted the same to CMO and Rourkela Municipal Corporation. Within a day, she was shifted to a TMC.
How was the response of your family about your interest?
I belong to a middle class family. My father is a farmer and my mother works as an Anganwadi worker.
My family has always been very supportive, especially about social work. They have helped me a lot in my mission.
How do you see Twitter now?
It is one of the best platforms for social media activism. Facebook is also helpful in highlighting problems but the chances of getting a response for a grievance is very high in case of twitter.
Has anything ever compelled you to step back?
No, I have never felt so. Our CM, Naveen pattnaik has himself said that we are entitled to all the amenities as the citizens of Odisha. I fearlessly contact every authority. I am fighting for the rights of people, not for me and there is nothing to fear about it.