Community radio as a means to empower rural masses in Orissa, India by
as a means to empower rural masses
The beauty of
the sudden emergence of community radios in India is that they are
designed to be for and by the community
There are no school dropouts in the Gop block of Puri district in
Orissa and it has nothing do to with the efforts of the government. For
several years, nobody applied for work under India’s rural job
guarantee scheme from the area; recently, 123 families applied on demand
from the local administration and 120 farmers received job cards.
Last year, a primary school was opened in Tailo village so that
children do not have to walk to another school 2km away, because of which
most were unwilling to attend it.
Like Gop, other neighbouring blocks such as Nimapara, Astarang and
Kakatpur are suddenly enjoying a sudden spurt of development activity.
This has happened because of the recently started Radio Namaskar
community radio station, which is available at 90.4 MHz FM and covers all
villages in a 10-15km range around the famous Konark sun temple.
Radio Namaskar broadcasts eight hours a day and covers almost all
developmental issues such as government schemes, school- and
education-related topics, women’s rights, agriculture, and so on.
Since the programme is by the community, they persist with many that are
complaint-oriented and critical of the government.
As a result, local authorities have become alert, responsive and are
delivering benefits that they never used to.
The beauty of the sudden emergence of community radios in India is
that they are designed to be for and by the community. In the case of
Radio Namaskar, 70% of the programmes are made by the community, who are
part of the 70 listener groups that have been created. They have not only
being able to make group listening a common practice but also have been
able to involve community members to use mobile phones extensively to
make the programmes interactive.
Also Read | Osama Manzar’s earlier columns
Being a member of the screening committee for licensing of community
radio stations at the ministry of information and broadcasting, my
observation is that most that are being set up are extensively using the
reach and penetration of mobile phones as a complementing tool, which is
providing extraordinary power to these broadcasts. There is a significant
ownership of mobile phones in villages and small towns; most feature
phones come with FM radio receivers, and if the radio station has a
mobile number for a phone-in programme, they can then directly connect
with everybody in the 10-15km radius.
Besides, the broadcasting ministry is aggressively pushing registered
not-for-profit organizations to apply for community radio stations, which
means if we divide the country into small clusters of 10-15km each, we
can have several thousands of community radio stations managed by
communities through registered non-governmental organizations. And if
they are integrated with mobile phones, they can become a killer
application for the society.
Ever since the licensing of community radio stations was opened in
2004, 913 applications have been received by the ministry. Of these, 349
have been given letters of intent, and there are 113 operational
community radio stations. Out of those that are actively broadcasting,
only 31 are run by NGOs, 74 are run by educational institutions and eight
are run by agriculture universities, or Krishi Vigyan Kendras.
If I look at the nominations in the community broadcasting category in
this year’s Manthan awards, some that left the deepest impact are
Radio Bundelkhand in Jhansi run by Development Alternatives, Rudi no
Radio in Ahmedabad run by Sewa Academy of Self Employed Women’s
Association, Tilonia Radio in Ajmer run by Barefoot College, Puduvai
Vaani—Samuthaya Vaanoli Nilayam run by Puducherry
There are three things common among all these radio stations: they use
mobile phones extensively to involve listeners; involve and have a huge
impact on women, and involve communities to take control of the station
for day-to-day operations and programming.
I see community radio as one of the most potent information and
communication technology tool that can work in tandem with the
proliferation of mobile phones, which could be adopted by the social
sector and telecommunication firms to reach the rural masses and involve
them to help themselves economically and educationally and in availing
themselves of government services.
Osama Manzar is founder and director of Digital Empowerment
Foundation and chairman of the Manthan award. He is also a member of the
Working Group for Internet Governance Forum at the ministry of
communications and information technology. Tweet him
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