For the past 20 years, Jeetendraa Gawda was a workaholic like hundreds of other businessmen at Opera House, shuttling between his home and his family’s investment consultancy firm.
After the July 13 blasts, however, the first thing Gawda did was to sign up for a weekend workshop on citizen journalism conducted by the Andheri-based JM Foundation for Excellence in Journalism.
Gawda was not the only one jolted out of his routine by the blasts. The foundation, which has been organising periodic citizen journalism courses in the past year, claims that enrolments nearly trebled on the weekend after July 13.
“After the blasts I wanted to be a more alert citizen,” said Gawda, 40, a Worli resident who was fortunately not at Opera House on the day of the blasts.
As an amateur citizen reporter, Gawda was taught the basics of fact gathering, consumer laws, Right to Information, and the processes involved in approaching local corporators, legislators and police heads when in need. “Now I feel more secure, confident and responsible as a member of society,” he said.
“The desire to become citizen reporters evidently increased after the blasts that Mumbai witnessed,” said Shishir Joshi, a senior journalist and co-founder of JM Foundation, which has conducted eight workshops on the subject across the country since last year.
Each workshop usually had 40 participants signing up, but this figure shot to nearly 140 in the August 22-24 workshop, of which 30 had to be turned down for lack of space.
“Citizens increasingly feel that the system has let them down, and the workshops empower them to take up their own case,” said Joshi, whose next workshop will be held in September.
The Foundation has also set up a website, citizensreport.in, on which graduates from its courses put up their reports for mainstream media to get leads from.
For 16-year-old Freia Lobo, who saw citizen reporting as an important platform for citizens to express their views, the blasts made it even more significant.
“People were disgusted after the blasts and realised that they needed to go beyond tweets and Facebook updates,” said Lobo, a Class 11 student and the youngest participant in the workshop. “As citizen reporters, our views will be taken seriously.”