BANGALORE: One rarely expects a magazine to be brought out of a slum. But in Bangalore's LR Nagar slum, one can go to the office of Slum Jagattu, or slum world, and meet Issaac Arul Selva, its editor.
"I started the magazine in 2000 to give our side of the story. Various magazines have been writing about the problems of slum dwellers, but they are the voices of the authorities and non-government organisations," says Selva, who is in his mid-30s. "Slum Jagattu tells you first hand what the slum dwellers experience."
The monthly magazine covers issues affecting the slums of Bangalore and is the only magazine in Karnataka brought out by a slum dweller. A father of three, Selva is known for his active opposition to the construction of an atomic power plant in Kaiga village in the south Canara region in the state, and for his support to Sunderlal Bahuguna's anti-eucalyptus campaign.
Selva doesn't have academic degrees below his belt. Poverty forced him to drop out of school when he was 10 and take up work as a dishwasher. "My teacher used to beat me all the time. I just could not study there. Besides, we were very poor," he says.
Selva started as a freelancer in 1998 when he wrote an article on the problems of gypsies in Bangalore titled "Alemarigala Baduku Bavane." The article was published in a magazine called Slum Suddi, meaning slum news. "I got Rs100 for the article. I was very happy."
Before this, he had worked for 20 years in various hotels and a garment factory in Bangalore. When Slum Suddi closed down, Selva thought of starting a magazine of his own. Thus came Slum Jagattu. "We bring to light how major policy decisions by the government affect slums," says Selva. Among the issues covered by Selva are the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and water privatisation. "We write with the hope that our issues will be noticed and picked up at the state and national levels."
The 16-page magazine has a circulation of 1,600 copies. It is widely read in Bangalore's slums. Copies also go to the city's libraries. "Its printing cost is funded by various small organisations," says Selva, who is also associated with several youth organisations in the city. Selva's dream is to develop a software which enables translation of texts to the local language. "We will achieve our goals in 20 years," he says optimistically.