28-Yr-Old Science Grad Farmer’s ‘Agriculture Photography Challenge’ Takes Twitter By Storm

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Among other epithets, 2018 might be remembered as the year of social media challenges that took over netizens by storm. Ranging from the powerful #TimesUp to the dangerous and pointless #KikiChallenge, the eventful year ended only to make way for 2019 to start with the #10YearChallenge.

Amidst the endless hullabaloo online, a beautiful Twitter trend started by a 28-year-old farmer from Telangana went almost unnoticed by many Indians, though it garnered quite some global attention. Narasimha Reddy, a Computer Science graduate, who took up his family profession of agriculture with pride, started the #AgriculturePhotographyChallenge on Twitter, asking people to share their photos of farming.

“I wanted to convey the message that agriculture is not all about dirty hands and feet, backbreaking labour and poverty. I wanted to portray the beauty in working on the soil, which is unknown to most of the urban citizens,” Reddy shared with Efforts For Good.

Who is Narasimha Reddy?

Reddy, who is an avid user of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, goes by the popular username ‘Reddisaab’. A passionate photographer himself, Reddy uses social media to highlight the untold story about agriculture, behind the stereotyped urban notions about it.

Agriculture Photography Challenge
Narasimha Reddy

Most of us hail stories about achievers from farmer families, who made a mark in fields like engineering, medicine, law or any upmarket business. But Reddy tells a different story. “I know so many youngsters who want to pursue farming as their vocation. They want to apply their scientific know-how in the fields. But, their families pressurise them to join IT jobs,” reveals Reddy.

Agriculture Photography Challenge

To highlight the true essence of farming, Reddy started the Facebook page Vyavasayam / Agriculture వ్యవసాయం, which has more than 9000 likes. The page not only showcases the lush green paddy or the ripe harvest glistening in the sun but also aims to motivate farmers with inspirational quotes. 

Agriculture Photography Challenge

In fact, his page also acknowledges the immense contribution of women farmers, who are the most overlooked of the lot.

Agriculture Photography Challenge

Reddy soon took his mission to other social media platforms, hoping to give recognition and identity to the farmers. The dynamic, young farmer has an eye for finding charm in the simplest everyday objects – be it the morning chai or a bunch of unripe groundnuts. His photographic brilliance speaks for itself in each of his pictures.

#AgriculturePhotographyChallenge

Reddy started the agricultural photography challenge on Twitter in November 2018, mentioning the deadline as December 31, 2018. But, the challenge got so popular in and outside India that it is still trending on Twitter. “I do not want this to fade into oblivion like those other challenges. Rather I would request to all your readers to please share their farming photos with the hashtag #AgriculturePhotographyChallenge,” he appeals.

In his first tweet on this challenge, he nominated Andrew Fleming, the British Deputy High Commissioner in Telangana who sportingly took up the challenge. Thereafter, hundreds have responded to the challenge, filling the Twitter world with beautiful farming photos, be it cultivators toiling in the sun or someone’s backyard farming on a small plot.
Efforts For Good presents some of the best photographs that surfaced through this challenge.

Also Read: In 2007 He Planted Just One Tree, Now Every Year His Organisation Plants More Than 1,00,000 Trees

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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