ouldn’t realise how these 10 years have passed. The story started with a rebel. There was a publication house which used to assign its reporters for its non-profession works — whenever someone’s grandchildren needed admission, whenever they wanted to seek Darshan of “Lalbaugcha Raja”, and so many other things.
The entire credit of any success always used to be showered on the company and its owner; however, the same was not in the case of a disaster or whenever the business faced hardships, the employees of the organisation were put accountable whatsoever.
When a newspaper is supported by the politicians or a business group, the news is in the hold of Mafia hands. Let it be business mafia, political mafia, land mafia, or anything. The inclination of the newspaper doesn’t work in favour of the general public but it goes towards the interest of the newspaper owner. That is the reason we stood up and we said that we will be a self-funded organisation. A bunch of rebels started this newspaper when they could not succumb to the atrocities. When they refused to mortgage their intellect, they refused to be the bonded labour of a media house. That’s how we started this journey of Afternoon Voice. Today, the same publication with the same name Afternoon has quit the market and now we are thriving.
In these 10 years of competition, finally, Afternoon Despatch & Courier succumbed. This has been dispatched or couriered to such an address that is not traceable and we’re still here today and will be here in the times to come with your blessings. We don’t follow any ideology, neither we hate any nor love any; we don’t have complaints from anyone, we’re not the slaves or supporters of any political party, we don’t envy any. Our only agenda is Parallel Journalism. We love to speak the truth. We love the establishment as much as we have complaints to them. We have as many questions for them as many we try to find the answers for.
We want to speak because the common people whom we represent can’t speak for themselves but we can. We have to speak for them because their voices can’t be heard in the corridors of power. Now, if we love or envy someone in this struggle, we wouldn’t be able to make our voices Loud, Clear and Objective.
Being parallel or neutral is a curse these days because nobody likes you. If you criticise Congress you are labelled as a BJP supporter. If you ask questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they think you are anti-BJP. If you ask questions to AAP, they think you’re the pawns of national parties. If you praise Arvind Kejriwal, it is translated as you are an AAPTARD. In these times, when media is called Presstitute, we are successfully upholding the spirit of Unbiased Journalism or Parallel Journalism without compromising our ethics and without falling into those categories.
We don’t have as many staff as the number of pages in our newspaper. However, we publish and successfully distribute this newspaper to our readers and common people daily. Afternoon Voice — a small newspaper, a small team, thousands of readers, and manifold the readership, hundreds of calls every day — someone has praises, someone has complaints. There are so many decisions we have to take in moment because a Newspaper runs on deadlines. Sometimes our decisions might go wrong, sometimes we may make mistake but trust me, no mistake of ours is ever that big which can’t be forgiven.
Everyone wants honest journalism but most of them don’t know how the narrative of honest journalism has been misplaced. You want to listen to the truth but if your leader or party is questioned, you don’t like this. You want to listen to the truth that is convenient to you and if journalism is going to happen on those parameters, then I would certainly say that the journalism has been sold out which we are not going to accept ever. We can’t be the voice of everyone because we’re the voice of the common people. We can’t walk with someone because we have to walk parallel to you to show you the right path. Now some may ask us “Who are we?” My answer would be “Someone who lives the journalism truly”.
We are a small part of one community. If you accept us, you read; if you don’t, there are many other newspapers. You don’t read each and every one of them. You are free to make your choices. We’re small and we can’t reach everywhere but wherever we reach, our Voice is Loud and Clear. We know it very well that we’re contributing immensely in the making of modern India. We know we follow our Prime Minister, be it Digital India or Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. Daughters are harassed even today and dowry is still there but its form has changed. These days’ people don’t ask for dowry, they ask for gifts as per their so-called reputation.
If a girl is born in your family, she is not treated equally but as inferior to others. At the cost of the girl, the boy’s side feels they are superior. Rape cases are increasing. Until we teach our sons that ‘male too feels pain’ nothing is going to change in society. How long Modi alone is going to tell people “Beti Bachao”? Modi has given you a slogan and showed you a path. It’s the supreme responsibility of each one of us that we save our Betis and we’re proud that we’re doing that. We criticise the government for its wrong decisions, schemes, and policies and at the same time, we embrace whatever right it has said or tried to do. We follow their right decisions as a “Gospel truth”.
Today, we have many daughters from Kashmir amongst us whose fathers were killed in riots and by terrorists. These girls are orphans. A few of their parents were in police, some were informers of police. They died for us and for our country.
We’re a small organisation, but every year on this occasion, we try to do something for these kids. We adopted 25 acid attack victims in 2017. We got some of them treated, gave jobs to some, and contributed to the marriage of many. We did whatever we could have done in the best of our capacity. We provide drinking water to the kids living in slums in the summer. My team may be working in the official timings, but we make some time to go to these slums to teach these kids for free.
Our resolve is tomorrow’s India. We would love to stand with and support those leaders who want to do something better for this country by being the voice of the people rather than being a mouthpiece of any political party.
We’re harassed because we don’t go hand in hand with anyone and that harassment gives us the courage to keep moving ahead. That’s the reason precisely that I’m standing in front of you after this journey of 10 years. We struggled a lot in all these years. We were very tiny when we started the journey. I remember when Shivanand Sir, former Commissioner of Mumbai police came to inaugurate our newspaper. He said to me with a slight smile that “Vaidehi, I should get you and your team arrested under the Child Labour Act.” This was because we all were very young, small in sizes, and in fact, half of the team members were school dropouts. If I try to recall, Praneet, Rohini, and Aditi are the names that come to my mind. These three were my first team. All of them were school dropouts who left their education in 12th. Since they had one year’s time to reappear for the board exams and they didn’t have anything to do, so I asked them if they would like to be the reporters.
Many of their friends laughed at me and made fun of me but trust me, these three were the people who had that potential. You ask social or any other issues, they would go and come back with reports and news, represent correctly, and write the same properly. They were all educated kids from the convent schools so it was not a challenge for them to write in English.
The way they were writing news was totally different than the other and that freshness of the newspaper was the element that gave us an identity in this big market. We broke the years-long-tradition of the senior citizens sitting on the desk and writing monotonously on the same issues with the same lines and same perception.
Even today, the senior most team member and Sub-Editor is 23-year-old. The team member who manages all the administration is also 25-year-old. My team is very small. Small in age but big in thoughts and perhaps this is what makes us different from all others. We don’t have a very large readership base as we can’t print in large numbers. However, we do have our online edition. I would request everyone that if you like us, do visit our online edition and keep reading Afternoon Voice. If you think any improvement is needed, then your suggestions are always welcome.
When I said that we’re the voice of the common people then we all together can change the condition and the direction of this country or at least of this society or if at least of one person. Without taking too much of your time, I would like to speak a little about this award event.
We organise Newsmakers Achievers’ Awards every year because there are many people like us, who with lots of labour and struggle have reached where they are today. Some of them have really made it big and some of them are reaching there. So, we had decided whether we get the appreciation or not, whether we get the recognition or not, whether we’re thanked or not, we must do that. Whosoever has made it big today with their unmatched talent, it is our duty to thank every one of them as somehow they have contributed to our lives in a big way, directly or indirectly. Whatever best we can do for them in our capacity, we will surely do it. I welcome all of you in today’s award event and from here we start the journey of the lifetime achievements.
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