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From Sex to Education,
DU Students' Paper Speaks their Mind
|by Azera Rahman|
Understandably so, "Ask Sex Amma", the column where all queries on hush topics are answered, with a pinch of humor, is the most popular section in DU Beat, Delhi University's just a year-old newspaper.
However, that in no way means that the paper's other sections are any less read. Whether it's the Campus Central section, which simmers with latest news related to the university or the eco-friendly Go Green section, the fashion or the editors column- DU Beat, an independent students' initiative, is, what the students call, a much desired platform to express themselves.
Over a conversation with the paper's student editor, Aniruddh Ghoshal, he put three terms to decipher DU Beat- self generated, non-opinionated and embodying freedom of expression.
"DU Beat is an initiative to bring the students of the north and south campus of the university closer and give them a platform to say what they want to say. We are a very flexible paper, there are no fixed columns or sections - which I have to admit is a nightmare for the designers - but that's what this paper is all about," Ghoshal told IANS.
A weekly, one of the issues that will get on the first page of the paper in one of the coming issues is how Delhi University (DU) has not been able to fill its reserved Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota seats.
"The reservation issue is something we all feel very strongly about because time and again we keep seeing students, who are economically well off and don't really need reservation, get into the best of the colleges on the basis of the quota system.
"However, because we have maintained that we don't want to be opinionated, that's why in the article we will just give the bare facts of the number of seats filled and let them tell the story for themselves," Ghoshal said.
In the past, this newspaper which transformed into the colored version just recently, has talked about the varsity's no-smoking campaign, the semester system which is yet to be introduced, discrimination against students of the north east and so on and so forth.
While they do write about larger issues such as the Bhopal gas tragedy and even conducted seminars on it, the focus is of course on DU and preference is given to articles and opinion pieces by students rather than the edit members.
"Our stories get a good response. There was one story that I did on the unhygienic conditions in college canteens in Delhi University, complete with a photograph of a rat sitting on a plate in a canteen's kitchen. That created a huge uproar and it landed me in a soup...the good thing however was, after that the conditions in the canteens have improved," the final year literature student in Venkateswara college said.
Not only that, their articles on hygiene and other interesting initiatives such as the "Dirty Loo contest" has forced officials to renovate dilapidated toilets in at least a few colleges like the Shri Ram college of Commerce, Lady Shri Ram and Venkateswara.
While the paper's fashion column is a big hit, especially amongst the girls, "Ask Sex Amma" is by far the most popular.
"We have an expert from the Naz Foundation answering students' queries on the so called hush topics. The student who handles that column says that sometimes some of the queries are downright weird! But all said and done, a simple feedback research found that it is the most popular section of the paper and many times students pick this paper just for this column," Ghoshal said.
One of the newly introduced sections of the paper, Go Green, is also beginning to create waves. Brainchild of one of the members of the editorial team, Agrima Bhasin, this section is all about going junk-plastic free and having a clean environment.
"We are planning to have an event "Funk the Junk" in the future when we will collect all the junk from the campus and get together to re-use and recycle it all to create new things. The purpose is not just talk about an issue but go deeper than that," he said.
This six-page newspaper whose 200 printed copies get exhausted every week, is soon planning to expand and the students are more than happy about it.
The newspaper is sold at Rs.3 to Delhi University students and at Rs.5 to outsiders. As the newspaper has proved popular, it even manages to generate some ad revenue, with coaching centers finding it an effective way to reach out to students.
There is a small marketing team in place to get ads for the paper and the revenue generated has apparently been enough to fund the publication of the weekly.
"For us at the edit team, things get very busy. We have classes from morning till afternoon, then extra curricular activities like drama practice and then editorial work. At 1 a.m. when I go online I have most of my team of more than 20 people logged on, working.
"But no one's complaining. Being a students' paper, we don't expect to get paid. We want to do this," Ghoshal said.
DU Beat is also distributed in other universities like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Jamia Milia Islamia.
The publisher of the newspaper is Kriti Gupta, a former Delhi University student.
(Azera Rahman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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