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Feel the green, select the best: Green Kerala Express

            Malayalam Version

Green Kerala Express: the first social reality show in Indian television

In an information packed media landscape which churns out news and entertainment 24 hours, seven days of the week, it is difficult to find the real pulse of rural India with its promises as well as failures. It is in this context that the Kerala Government in association with Thiruvananthapuram Doordarshan has initiated a very unique and one of its kind developmental programme titled Green Kerala Express: the first social reality show in Indian television history to select the best panchayat in Kerala which has developed sustainable development models.

This daily 40 minute interactive show which involves all the 999 Grama Panchayts, 57 Municipalities and five corporations in Kerala is a joint initiative of the Department of Local Self Government, Government o f Kerala, State Suchitwa Mission, Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA), Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (CDIT) and Thiruvananthapuram Doordarshan.

The Background

Initially, all the local self governments were invited to join the competition by identifying a sustainable model in any developmental sector and producing a ten minute video on the project. More than 200 local self governments applied. The panchayats came out with impressive and imaginative stories on the collective effort of the people in harnessing the latent talent of the people at the grass root level. The stories covered sectors like water and land management, sanitation, environment, health, energy, education, social welfare, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), women empowerment as in Kudumbasree, agriculture, food security etc. After the preliminary evaluation 150 Panchayats were short listed for the show.

Conceptualized as a travelogue, the production team from CDIT visited all the selected Local Self Governments (LSG) with the anchors traveling on a bicycle which was taken as a motif for a sustainable future. The visiting teams conducted a reality check at the village level by talking to the people and collecting impressions. They came back and produced two short films, one a cultural and historic profile on the village and the other a modified version of the developmental model. The selected panchayats were then invited to the reality show floor where the films produced by the LSG and the two short films produced by the visiting teams were screened. Based on the screenings and the questionnaire the five member jury interacts with the LSG representatives for about an hour and then they are given marks based on their performance.

Based on marks received 15 LSGs were short listed for the final round where the jury along with the video team visit the finalist panchayats and evaluate them on ground. Based on a final elaborate jury interaction, the best three Panchayaths and two Muncipalities were selected. The best Panchayath gets Rs One Crore and the best Muncipality gets Rs.50 lakh as prize which is one of the biggest prize money in any developmental game show. The jury comprises of eminent personalities and sectoral experts from different fields.

The show commenced telecast on March 1, 2010 in Thiruvananthapuram Doordarshan at 5.05 pm, 8.30 pm and also at 11 pm for the Middle East viewers. After the telecast of each Panchayat the viewers were requested to give SMS marks and votes for the selected developmental model. The show is also layered with various messages and ideas on green and sustainability themes which can be practiced by any viewer at home or in the office.

The unique web portal contains all details on the show along with a You Tube channel which has all the telecast episodes, Photo gallery, Social Media Networking, Blog and Greekers (an acronym of Green Kerala Express Rating System).

The perspective:

Green Kerala Express is unique in that it re-designs a very popular television genre for developmental and social communication. This is also a bold attempt in creating a paradigm shift not just in reversing the existing top-down developmental communication model but also in governance. It is indeed a rare experiment in which elected representatives are subjected to a social/expert auditing in a media platform. This has also turned out to be a very valid experience in peer learning and show-casing replicable good practices. By focusing on sustainable developmental models the programme has opened up more creative ways to address issues concerning the future of our planet ranging from climate change to renewable energy.

The participating panchayats are going back with renewed energy and commitment mainly because they are happy to get a platform where they could project some of their achievements. In the midst of a heavily commercialized media landscape which is filled with sensationalized and exaggerated stories, these green initiatives from the field come as a fresh air for the viewers who are getting fed up with the continuous onslaught of negative stories

Green Kerala Express: a new paradigm in media

Green express aims to create an alternative narrative of the society deviating from what mainstream media chooses to depict. It raises voice for the silent people, brings out unnoticed initiatives at the grass root level and kindle hope about the future. It also tells us the importance of decentralization and the ‘principle of subsidiarity’ in Indian planning which suggests that many of the local level issues can be identified and solved at the local level itself. This programme also alters our definition of development.

(The project has been conceived and Directed by G.Sajan (Assistant Station Director, Doordarshan Kendra, Thiruvananthapuram) and K.Mohan Kumar (Deputy Director, CDIT, Thiruvananthapuram)

Realised by Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT)                  Credits