CENDIT scores with film series

Catalysts for Change, a 13-part film series produced by the Centre for the Development of Instructional Technology, covers the gamut of problems that plague the country and its people

By Sevanti Ninan
Published: Wednesday 30 September 1992

BETWEEN the radical and the official view of socio-economic developments, there is a middle ground of development ideology that does not readily find a voice on television. Catalysts for Change is one such series, made by the Centre for the Development of Instructional Technology (CENDIT). It was intended for Doordarshan, but was never accepted for telecast and is languishing now in Cendit's video library. Occasionally, copies are bought by some organisation wanting to use the series. Cendit offers a 40 per cent price discount to social activists and small, voluntary groups.

The 13-part series covers the gamut of problems that plague this country and its people. The range is pretty exhaustive: from agrarian reform (The Plough and the Sickle) and common property resources (Out of the Woods) to the plight of tribals (The Fringe Dwellers) and health for all (Concepts of Health).

The plus point of the series is that it does not stop at delineating problems but explores solutions through the experiences of organisations in rural and urban India. Not all solutions are posed in the voluntary sector: the experience of Operation Barga in Bengal and those of the Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha, to name two instances, are also examined. But Doordarshan did not find this approach sufficently constructive, objecting no doubt to the exhaustive coverage of a myriad different problems that affect the quality of life for millions of ordinary people.

Some of these half-hour documentaries manage to cover quite a lot of ground. Concepts of Health, for instance, begins with voluntary efforts in inculcating basic hygiene and goes on to community health ventures and, more interestingly, to organisations working on the rational use of drugs. Alternative marketing of drugs and efforts to educate doctors in prescribing them in a more enlightened way are also covered.

In contrast, other films such as the one on drinking water go on and on about the problem and spend much less time on exploring workable solutions. The one on school dropouts, too, manages to cover only one dimension of the vast and vexing array of problems affecting literacy and education at the school and college level.

One gets the feeling that since these films were made, some of the technology options they explore have been used in the Doordarshan serial Turning Point. What Catalysts of Change does is to suggest the scope for considerable exploration on TV of dozens of innovative grassroot approaches to development, being pioneered in different parts of the country. These may not amount to more than a drop in the ocean, but if handled intelligently such a series would possess more credibility than Doordarshan's sporadic efforts in this direction. It would also offer more credible reasons for hope in a country where there are always more problems than solutions in sight.
Audio activism Development Alternatives have just produced two cassettes of songs with simple (in fact, extremely simple) environmental messages. The cassettes, Ankur and Paryavaran aur Vikas ke Geet, are designed for use by those working to create environmental awareness. As the promotional blurb says, songs in India have excellent potential for persuasive communication.

What would life be like if trees were to disappear and rivers to dry up, warbles one singer. Another trills is an ode to greenery, reminding the listener that forests give fuel, medicines, and so on and urging them not to cut trees down. The lyrics harp constantly on the link between abundant forests and flowing rivers. There is a let's-plant-a-tree song and others that campaign against poaching and vehicular pollution. Simple, uncomplicated and lyrical, these songs are good for children and for literacy purposes.

Where to contact...

Centre for Development of Instructional Technology (CENDIT)
D-1 Soami Nagar
New Delhi 110 017

Development Alternatives
B-32 Institutional Area
TARA Crescent
New Mehrauli Road
New Delhi 110 016

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