In the summer of 2015, the Marathwada region of the Indian state of Maharashtra was reeling under the worst drought in recent years.

As much as 84% of Marathwada region is rain fed, with the region normally receiving around 780 millimeters of rainfall during monsoons. But in June 2015, rainfall was only 259 millimeters, and water storage in the state’s dam had hit a three-year low. This was the third successive drought in three years, resulting in massive crop failure.

The entire region was in the news for all the wrong reasons: poverty, crop failure, and mounting debts, leading many farmers to commit suicide.

With an objective to extend help to drought-affected farmers and their families, Dainik Bhaskar initiated Annadaan — a food grain donation campaign — across 36 cities in 10 states from September 28 to October 20, 2015. 

Driven by its vision of enabling socio-economic change, Dainik Bhaskar firmly believes that farmers are integral stakeholders in our society. Hence, when the growers of food grain were struggling, we rose to the occasion and leveraged our strength to help the starving farmers.

One print ad was published in all editions with a simple message of “Annadaata ke liye Annadan,” which means “providing food grain for the food provider.”

Annadaan realises engages readers in campaign to help farmers.
Annadaan realises engages readers in campaign to help farmers.

Editorial write-ups also were created to highlight the farmer’s plight. Interestingly, this initiative was aligned with the auspicious period of Pitrupaksha/Shradh in India, during which people make donations. Collection centres were set up in 36 cities. Meetings were organised with local community leaders for enhancing the drive.

Stakeholder engagement was the key. Concentrated efforts were made in close coordination with relevant stakeholders, including local Panchayat Raj members, non-governmental organisations, and volunteers, to distribute food grain in 1-, 2-, 5- or 10-kilogram packages for drought-hit farmers and their families.

Print medium proves instrumental in humanitarian effort, attracting 1,500 volunteers to pack donated food.
Print medium proves instrumental in humanitarian effort, attracting 1,500 volunteers to pack donated food.

Beneficiary cards and registers also were maintained to track food donations to remove any duplicity. Trucks transported the collected food to the five worst-affected districts. The local schools and colleges came forward to help, and their students were happy to volunteer. Close to 1,500 volunteers worked tirelessly to repack the food.

With all of this volunteer power, the entire distribution drive was wrapped up in less than seven days with the following results:

  • Within 20 days, 300 tons of food grains were collected and distributed.
  • Distribution centres were set up across 125 villages to reach 15,000 families. 
  • No suicides have been recorded to date in the areas where the food grain was distributed.

At a time when print media is fast losing share to other media, it continues to flourish in India at a healthy growth rate. This growth is driven primarily by regional languages, especially Hindi. Annadaan was a unique humanitarian approach, which saw massive mobilisation within a short period. This case study truly demonstrates the effective power of one single, well-crafted print ad.