The community radio addresses a dire need in far flung areas, sharing of local knowledge locally
sulman Singh, a farmer in a small village in district Jalandhar,Punjab, listens to the agricultural programme broadcasted on the Avatar Community Radio on a daily basis. He gets the information of the latest farming technology, solutions to several farming issues and weather reports in his regional language.
Up in the hills of Uttarakhand, in the dusty little Chamba town, the community radio station Henvalvani takes up issues of environmental conservation and directly asks the listeners to come up with their suggestion for the administration. Henvalvani, name after the local river gurgling down below the radio station, has been entertaining the audience for quite some time.
The locals, with the help of Ford Foundation support, harnessed the expertise of an environment specialist to understand the linkages between humans and the environment. Today, they help warn people about road closures due to landslides, or even predict high rainfall and inform people on what action to take in case of a disaster.
“There is a growing demand for such programmes,” said Ravi Gossain, the head of Henvalvani. “Our listeners have been insisting that knowledge regarding climate change and environment must be disseminated.”The Henvalvani also charges small fees from local businesses for running their advertisements to meet the expenses of the station.
Avatar Community Radio or Henvalvani are just some of the several community radios running across the country. What’s special about community radios is that the programmes are broadcast in regional languages with the locals operating the radio stations. The audience gets connected very easily to the programmes if the medium of communication is in regional language.
Community radio has a very large audience reach in our country. The central government is going to promote the community radio stations across the country in order to enable students and farmers with educational information and farming skills.
The station manager of community radio ‘Gurgaon Ki Aawaz’, Vandana Thapliyal says, “Community radio is a kind of ‘to the people, for the people and by the people’ system.” There are currently 245 operating radio stations in the country, however there are another 179 community radio broadcasted in the country. These community radios have an audience of 2.5 crore people across the country. Recently I&B Minister Venkaiah Naidu announced that the government is providing a 90 percent subsidy for establishing a community radio in seven northeastern states of the country while a 75 percent subsidy in all the other states.
It takes approximately Rs 15 lakh to setup a single community radio station. So far, the government was providing a maximum subsidy of 50% of the cost. Back in year 2002, the government made policies to establish community radios for educational purposes and again for NGOs in year 2006. According to this policy, these community radios can be established and operated by NGO and educational institutions. The broadcasted programmes must have at least 50 percent contribution from the local residents. The antenna of these radio stations must not exceed 30 meters and should cover a range from 5 to 10 kms.
These community radio stations are getting quite popular among the people because of the local language used in their news and informational programmes. The first community radio was established in Anna University, Chennai named ‘Anna FM’ back in 2004. But the number of these radio stations has been rising ever since. According to I&B ministry, the number of these community radio stations was 28 in year 2007 while it was 184 in year 2015. The number is expected to further rise exponentially considering the government’s subsidy.
It can help spread educational, health, environmental and sanitary awareness in the public domain. There is a student operated community radio named ‘Radio Jamia’ in Delhi’s JamiaMilliaIslamia University. Its range is up to 10 kms. It broadcasts educational programmes for the university students while they also broadcast health related and other programmes for the neighbouring residents.
Rajamal Patel of Jhansi also listens to the ‘Khet Khalihaan’ programme on the community radio ‘Radio Buldelkhand’ every day. He says, ‘I got the number of a farm scientist on the radio. After talking to the scientist, I processed cow dung and urine into compost. So we don’t need chemical fertilizers anymore”.
The ‘Avatar Community Radio’ enlightens the public towards environment. As a result, the public is contributing in cleaning the nearby drains. A radio named ‘Radio Kisan’ runs in Odisha. It broadcasts farming related programmes and weather prediction for the farmers. It also warns the locals of storms.
The reach of mainstream media is still limited in the rural areas of the country. Besides, the content in them is not attuned to the informational needs of grassroots people.
Amidst this, these community radios are empowering the people. In this age of information, knowledge is directly related to empowerment. A true, vibrant democracy stands on the edifice of information, which is accessible by all.
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