UNICEF Country Representative Cecilio Adorna giving the inaugural address at the launch of the Banasthali Community Radio
By Girija Devi
Khandewat village in Tonk, Rajasthan crackled nervously and then triumphantly came live on air on 30 July 2007 at 3.30 pm in the afternoon.
The radio channel: 90.4 MHz Aapno radio broadcasting from Banasthali Radio studios
The programme broadcasted: Saptahik Charcha: Roundup of the week’s events: School enrolment drive and the Swasthya Diwas (Mother and Child Health Nutrition Day).
The discussants: Chandan Lal, DEEO Tonk, Dr Lala Meena, SMO Niwai, Ms. Mamata Sagar Lady Supervisor, Jilia, Niwai
Question: Children who are aged 14 years and still out of school- are there any education options for them?
Chandan Lal: The government has opened Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalayas where girls can study and live in hostels where they are safe and secure
Question: During the Swasthya Diwas what services do we get?
Mamata Sagar: During the Mother and Child Health Nutrition Day day you must go to the Anganwadi Centre and there the Anganwadi behenji gives immunization for young infants, she weighs children to check that they are growing normally or not, she gives advice on care to be taken for pregnant women, distributes iron tablets to adolescent girls……
Khandewat village is twenty- five minutes drive from the Banasthali radio station. There are 250 households in this village which has shown progress in terms of increased birth registration, immunization, institutional deliveries, and school enrollment since the integrated village planning project was initiated in November 2006.
A radio listeners group has been formed here. “Shankar FM” a local youth eking out a living at a tyre repair- cum- air pumping village shop is an avid listener of all FM channels and he has taken the lead in mobilizing people to come together.
The radio group so far has 8 members – Maya, Anuradha and Nirmala, three village youth volunteers from Gramshakti who have undergone training in radio programming along with four other local youths. A nervous but determined Anuradha initiates the meeting on the radio programme, being broadcast live.
The village has a very important visitor amongst them- Mr. Cecilio Adorna, UNICEF Country Representative. The Panchayat leaders welcome him, put a big red vermillion tilak on his forehead, tie a red bandhani turban on his head and garland him. Then follows a puppet show by Nathu Khan and Party with a lovable all-knowing puppet character Gyani Baba keeping the young children in splits with jokes interspersed with bits of important information about Aapno radio, the new schedule and contents of programmes to be broadcast . High above hidden in the branches of a neem tree a peacock witness to the event lets out an occasional peal of delight.
Cecilio Adorna, the UNICEF representative speaking with a caller in the first transmission of the live phone-in programme.
On 30 July 2007, Cecilio Adorna, UNICEF country representative launched the live phone-in programme on Radio Banasthali at Banasthali Vidyapith in Tonk district at 12.00 pm. In his message to the radio listeners of Niwai he said “Namaskar and congratulation for each one of you listening to this channel.”. Congratulatory messages were then given by Dr. Satish Kumar, Chief UNICEF Rajasthan, followed by the District Magistrate Tonk district Mr. Onkar Singh, Prof. Diwakar Shastri Secretary and Prof. Aditya Shastri Director of Banasthali Vidyapith.
Dr. Satish Kumar, Chief UNICEF Rajasthan stressed upon the important role community radio will play in the days to come in bringing about a change in mindset of people, information sharing, information to act and being able to link to available services and resources in the community.
Mr. Onkar Singh, District Magistrate Tonk in his address emphasized the need to monitor and link government schemes and programmes like the National Rural Health Mission, Total Sanitation Campaign, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme in the district with the socially excluded groups and the important role the village youth volunteers of Gramshakti and community radio could play in this.
Aapno radio is the community radio from Banasthali which is being test transmitted from 25 July 2007 with an extended transmission time from current 3 hours to 6 hours covering a radial area of 50 villages.
The FM radio station at Banasthali Vidyapith (an all Women’s University), was started in January 2005 as a campus radio reaching out to the student community. In collaboration with UNICEF, a pilot Community Radio project was started in Tonk district in 2006 with the objective to reach out to the communities living in the 50 villages surrounding Banasthali.
The programmes transmitted are a mix of live and canned programmes based on the community preference for formats, presentation styles and themes. The issues and concerns raised in the villages are interwoven into the on-line discussion and phone-in programmes.
It is planned to form 50 radio listeners clubs for small group mediated discussions on the programmes being broadcasted. These clubs will meet at the time when the programmes are broadcast and listen to the programme together and seek information or ask questions by phoning in during the broadcasts. The village volunteer then initiate a discussion on the subject of the programme.