#GiveUpAMeal: Social media campaign saving lives of cows

Written by GIRISH ALVA

When the matter of cows dying in villages around the Male Mahadeshwara Hills due to lack of fodder by fencing the Hill and drought, reached seer of Sri Ramachandrapura Mutt, Sri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swamiji who has devoted his life for the cause of saving indigenous cows, he immediately sprang into action. A huge campaign called “Namma Betta namage Bidi” (Leave our hill to us) was organized to fight against fencing the hill and to get back the natural rights of villagers and cows.

The death rate of cows increased alarmingly. Then the seer gave a call to the society and with a campaign Gou Praana Bhiksha. The outline of the campaign is: Have simple meal every day, lead a simple life and give up a meal once a week for the next 3 months, until the rainy season. Donate the saved money to feed the cows at the MM Hills.

Swamiji’s call to skip a meal on Monday noons reminded us of the fasting call (popularly called ShastriVrit) given by the then Prime Minister of India Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri during the 1965 India-Pakistan war so that the food saved could be distributed to the people affected by severe drought and food shortage. We learnt about Swamiji’s fasting call from our Mutt devotee friends and it was a right cause to support instead of wasting time on Social media trolling politicians who never improve whatever we do.

We formed a small core team mostly with Mutt devotees active in Social media and a few outside friends. The 15 member team took up the task of taking this amazing initiative into national platform. We didn’t have an example of online campaign to follow, and we started brainstorming how we can run a successful campaign for this cause as we wanted to do it unique. The first focus was Twitter as our target was to reach people all over India. We needed a hashatag and had a few proposals. Finally selected“#GiveUpAMeal” which sounded unique, attractive and same time effectively convey the message we wanted to deliver.

First Monday, 10 April 2017, we focused more on the campaign of giving up a meal than the cause. This attracted a sizable SM activists. That gave us moral strength to pursue a target which we never thought we can achieve. For the Monday on April 17th we planned to reach a Milion (10Lakhs) people. Some of the members in the team thought this is too high target. But hei, you aim for Mars, atleast we will land in moon. Swamiji said “Beg for the cause”. Why not we beg with big social media activists to support?

We came up with the strategy on how we can reach a million people. We had regular discussions and we drafted the blue print with the campaign planned to the last minute details.We drafted the messages to post everyday prior to 3 days before the event, so we build up interest. We listed down big handles and personally messaged them to support by adding the campaign hashtag #GiveUpAMeal with their profile names. The support was amazing when we explained the cause. We then got many of these people also accepting to tweet about the cause. There were many other small effective strategies we adopted to reach maximum people on Social Media. Our aim was not to trend, but if it happens that’s fine. Because trending a hashtag need lot of unproductive work like increasing the quantity of messages, sacrificing the quality.

Most of us hardly slept over the weekend and were ready for the Monday of the ‘Reach a Million’ #GiveUpAMeal campaign. On the 17th April, Monday morning we saw a few people changing their profile names, and we reminded a few more. When we started posting messages at 10AM about the Native cows dying at MM Hills with pics, videos and messages, we were into sweet surprises. Support poured in from everywhere. Big handles changed their profile names, they start supporting us with tweets and re tweets. Alas, in another few minutes we saw we are trending as one of the top hashtag nationwide!

Messages started reaching every corner of the country, from Kerala to Kashmir, from Assam to Gujarat, even overseas people start tweeting from countries like Singapore, US, Germany etc. People started donating. But more than the donation, our aim was to have a huge reach and donations will automatically follow over the days.We aimed Mars and we successfully reached our target, crossing a Million people. Enquiries, donations, messages, suggestions started pouring in. We were surprised when news portals picked up our catchy ‘reach a million’tagline and the hashtag of the campaign. Team was approached to send articles and they were published in one of the top news portals and print media. The motivated core team did their best! We were all emotional at the end of the campaign. Nothing is impossible when we have inspiration like Swamiji and his blessings. The campaign had ripple effects and messages reached more people throughout the week, continued to receive donations.

Swamiji’s call to skip a meal on Monday noons reminded us of the fasting call (popularly called ShastriVrit) given by the then Prime Minister of India Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri during the 1965 India-Pakistan war so that the food saved could be distributed to the people affected by severe drought and food shortage. We learnt about Swamiji’s fasting call from our Mutt devotee friends and it was a right cause to support instead of wasting time on Social media trolling politicians who never improve whatever we do.

We formed a small core team mostly with Mutt devotees active in Social media and a few outside friends. The 15 member team took up the task of taking this amazing initiative into national platform. We didn’t have an example of online campaign to follow, and we started brainstorming how we can run a successful campaign for this cause as we wanted to do it unique. The first focus was Twitter as our target was to reach people all over India. We needed a hashatag and had a few proposals. Finally selected“#GiveUpAMeal” which sounded unique, attractive and same time effectively convey the message we wanted to deliver.

First Monday, 10 April 2017, we focused more on the campaign of giving up a meal than the cause. This attracted a sizable SM activists. That gave us moral strength to pursue a target which we never thought we can achieve. For the Monday on April 17th we planned to reach a Milion (10Lakhs) people. Some of the members in the team thought this is too high target. But hei, you aim for Mars, atleast we will land in moon. Swamiji said “Beg for the cause”. Why not we beg with big social media activists to support?

We came up with the strategy on how we can reach a million people. We had regular discussions and we drafted the blue print with the campaign planned to the last minute details.We drafted the messages to post everyday prior to 3 days before the event, so we build up interest. We listed down big handles and personally messaged them to support by adding the campaign hashtag #GiveUpAMeal with their profile names. The support was amazing when we explained the cause. We then got many of these people also accepting to tweet about the cause. There were many other small effective strategies we adopted to reach maximum people on Social Media. Our aim was not to trend, but if it happens that’s fine. Because trending a hashtag need lot of unproductive work like increasing the quantity of messages, sacrificing the quality.

Most of us hardly slept over the weekend and were ready for the Monday of the ‘Reach a Million’ #GiveUpAMeal campaign. On the 17th April, Monday morning we saw a few people changing their profile names, and we reminded a few more. When we started posting messages at 10AM about the Native cows dying at MM Hills with pics, videos and messages, we were into sweet surprises. Support poured in from everywhere. Big handles changed their profile names, they start supporting us with tweets and re tweets. Alas, in another few minutes we saw we are trending as one of the top hashtag nationwide!

Messages started reaching every corner of the country, from Kerala to Kashmir, from Assam to Gujarat, even overseas people start tweeting from countries like Singapore, US, Germany etc. People started donating. But more than the donation, our aim was to have a huge reach and donations will automatically follow over the days.We aimed Mars and we successfully reached our target, crossing a Million people. Enquiries, donations, messages, suggestions started pouring in. We were surprised when news portals picked up our catchy ‘reach a million’tagline and the hashtag of the campaign. Team was approached to send articles and they were published in one of the top news portals and print media. The motivated core team did their best! We were all emotional at the end of the campaign. Nothing is impossible when we have inspiration like Swamiji and his blessings. The campaign had ripple effects and messages reached more people throughout the week, continued to receive donations.

We continued the campaign on every Monday, asking people to give up a meal and donate the saving to the cause. In the following weeks we planned to take this successful campaign into Facebook as local population is in Facebook more than Twitter. We created a FB page https://www.facebook.com/GiveUpAMeal/. Inviting all our friends to join the page, w created a Facebook event, so we can spread the Monday’s fasting or #GiveUpAMeal message to reach more people who accept to join and spread further. One of the touching moments was when ex-Karnataka CM Shri BS Yedyurappaji invited the team to meet him. He first donated Rs 10Lakhs to the cause and then asked what other ways he can support. These kind hearted people gave us all the confidence that we could do a meaningful contribution to the dream of Swamiji saving the close to a lakh cows in MM Hills.

The team continued to explore more ways to reach larger audience through Social Media. On Mondays we were posting video clips, running live streaming videos from MM Hills, pictures of the horrifying state of cows in the villages so people understand the biggest crisis of our times for native cows. Together with the ground work from Matha volunteers collecting donations and the online campaign, we saved 20,000 desi cows from the jaws of death due to hunger and we could save 100s of poor villagers who depend on these cows for livelihood without which some of them were ready to end life.

As we are reaching once year of this holy work, the biggest social media campaign for a social cause, as some media quoted, we get energized by that success to do more for the nation. In the history of this great nation Bharat, whenever rulers failed to do their duty, it was Gurus and Seers who came to the rescue of common man! This is one of the similar incidents and when Swamiji is leading the historical work of saving cows and thereby saving the villagers, it is the duty of every citizen to support. Many people who call themselves educated, just know the tip of the iceberg and are arrogant to understand this humble work. During this campaign we came across some of these kind of people, but we came in touch with many more good people who selflessly supported us, which made us humble and motivated us to learn more ways we can contribute to the glory of Mother India!

About the author

GIRISH ALVA

Author is a Mangaluru-based social activist