Pudhari: Leading from the front

NIKHIL BALLAL

In Kolhapur,newspaper means‘Pudhari’ and ‘Pudhari’ means newspaper. The Jadhav family who have been running the show for over eight decades has earned this enviable synonym!  It has become the mirror of Kolhapur and mouthpiece of every common man. However, they didn’t restrict themselves only till providing news and covering events but also understood the pulse of society and participated in public issues and accomplishedsocial projects.

First hospital for army in high altitude place Siachen could happen only because of them. Today our soldiers are getting immediate treatment at this hospital. The man behind this hospital is the editor of‘Pudhari’, PadmashreeDr.PratapsinhJadhav. Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally lauded Dr. Jadhav for taking such initiatives.

‘Pudhari’, a popular Marathi daily started by Late GanpatraoJadhav in 1937 is currently the third largest circulated Marathi newspaper in Maharashtra and has sizeable presence in Goa as well as in North Karnataka. Late Mr. Jadhav who was considered to be a close aide of Mahatma Gandhi and actively participated in Dandi march. He was also related with Satyashodhak Samaj.  He was also associated with BabasahebAmbedkar for the upliftment of Dalit community. A freedom activist, journalist and writer awarded with fourth highest Indian civilian honour of Padma Shri in 1984, Mr. Jadhav started a newspaper in Kolhapur mainly to voice the issues of western Maharashtra.

He was later joined by his son Pratapsinh in 1969. Dr.Pratapsinh, who completed his studies from Cardiff had to immediately face the challenge of competition from newspapers in Mumbai and Pune. These dailies had started creating space in Kolhapur by then. To grow and maintain its position in such stiff competition, Dr.Pratapsinh decided to buy an imported machine to improve the quality. However, his father was sceptical with this decision as one of his father’s friendswho had bought this machine was facing deep financial crisis. Dr.Jadhav is a visionary man. He instilled confidence in his father and not only bought the machine but achieved a remarkable feat within a year. The circulation of Pudhari which lingered around 9000 reached a whopping number of 50,000 because of the changes that were brought by Dr. Pratapsinh.

“Providing local news and highlighting local issues has been the success formula for Pudhari. They have always emphasized on local events and happenings. If newspapers have will and power then they can perhaps work better than any government”, says Dr. Pratapsinh.

“As many armyrecruits hail from western Maharashtra, their families who were also our readersuse to tell us the problems their men in fatigues faced on border. One of them was lack of medical infrastructure. When we spoke with the army general we realised that the cost was the major concern. The cost of building a hospital was two and a half crores then. We decided to raise funds to build this hospital. As it is said charity begins at home, we at Pudhari first contributed 50 lakhs. Later, we appealed our readers to contribute, people gave us a tremendous response, as within a month we collected two crore rupees! We gave a cheque to the army general and the hospital was built. Today, it gives us immense satisfaction to see our jawans getting immediate treatment.

Agitation of sugarcane farmers against exploitation of factory owners was initiated by ‘Pudhari’. Through our newspaper we ran a campaign ‘usala lagla kolha’. As this issue was of mass interest, we received a massive support from all farmers. We fought for SMP(statutory minimum price) for sugarcane and farmers got justice as government agreed to the price which farmers demanded.  As Kolhapur is a pilgrim place we demanded development of Jyotiba and Mahalakshi temple. Government announced Rs 25 and 108 crores respectively. Our demand for Kokan-Kolhapur railway route was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he had come to grace our 75th anniversary function,” Dr Jadhav shared.

Such initiatives impress readers and augment the circulation too. Being the forth pillar of democracy their role doesn’t stop only upto providing news but also to vent out the grievances of public and give them the justice. “Thesefundamentals of our paper made us popular not only in western Maharashtra but also in all parts of state, North Karnataka and Goa. Today we have 18 editions to our credit,” Dr Jadhav stated.

Though newspaper industry doesn’t survive on circulation revenue and requires advertisement revenue to sustain, they never actually focussed on advertisements. They never pushed advertisers, instead they were attracted towards Pudhari because of their mass circulation. Many newspaper owners try to go the other way round and fail miserably.

“Readers don’t like the disturbance of advertisements in between the editorial. So, whenever we have more ads we increase the number of pages and satisfy our readers. We strictly follow news and advertisement ratio of 60:40”, says Dr. Jadhav.

“If one doesn’t change as per technology then one becomes obsolete in business. In last eight decades, we have adapted and accepted various transitions in a positive way that has taken place in newspaper industry. ‘Pudhari’ were the first to install web offset machine in Maharashtra.  We were also one of the first few to start newspaper online. You can get all latest updates on our portal and can read all our editions online”, adds Dr. Jadhav.

“Working for a newspaper is a very sacred job. I feel it is a university where we are educating the masses. Government should consider newspapers as educational institutions and provide us with all facilities that they provide to these institutions. Media has a great power they can influence the opinion makers and can bring reforms.  Media enjoys freedom to express, but while experiencing this freedom one should ensure that freedom of people is also safeguarded”, tells Dr. Pratapsinh.

“It is very sad that when it comes to newspaper, people are very price conscious. People have accepted the price escalation of cutting chai from one to five rupees but are not ready to accept to change in newspaper prices. In other parts of India especially in south, newspapers are sold way above our prices. Rising paper and printing expenses makes it difficult for newspaper owners to give good editorial output”, explains Dr. Jadhav.

Dr. Yogesh Jadhav, son of Dr. Pratapsinh Jadhav is taking Pudhari to a next level. With his unique ideas and enterprising nature, Pudhari’s march continues.“Newspaper business has now become a herculean task. One has to think out of the box to sustain in this business.  And so it is necessary to hand over the business to next generation who has fresh ideas. I feel the future is of county papers. Due to rising literacy rate, regional press is increasing. Newspapers have already gone local, now it is time to go hyperlocal,” concludes Dr. Jadhav.

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