Shivpuri, February 2009 : This small town in the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh has launched a community radio station, just a few days after the first started in Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh. This is the second such community radio station supported by UNICEF, to be set up.
Residents of Shivpuri will not only speak on the radio, but own and manage the radio station as well. Locals will record their programmes and have access to information.
On February 17, district collector Manish Shrivastava inaugurated the station of radio `Dharkan 107.8 FM exclusively for the people of Shivpuri and 51 adjoining villages within a 15 km radius. With most necessary clearances already obtained from the Union government, the station will start broadcast in the next four months. Supported by UNICEF and the district administration, the community radio will telecast programmes on maternal and child health along with local cultural entertainment, folk music and discussions on developmental issues.
Shivpuri gets its own voice:
“Call it the democratization of the radio technology” explained N Ramakrishnan of Ideosync Media Combine, the company that provided technological support. “So far, the media has always been for privileged citizens. Media coverage focuses on political parties in New Delhi and the metro cities. Places like Shivpuri or Lalitpur are never on the radar of the media” he said. Mobile phones and computers have simplified the radio technology to an extent that a degree in engineering is no longer necessary to run a radio station. Residents of Shivpuri will not only speak on the radio, but own and manage the radio station as well. Locals will record their programmes and have access to information. At last, the downtrodden, underprivileged, marginalized citizens of a lesser known vicinity of north India will possess the power to speak and be heard. Dharkan is “a radio of the people, by the people and for the people” said Mrs. Angela Walker, Communication Chief UNICEF.
Champa Advasi becomes a filed reporter
Champa Adivasi, A tribal woman from village Murkhera, doesn’t know to read and write. Fourteen months ago, she worked in agricultural fields while her husband worked as a labourer in the town. Today, she is a field reporter for Radio Dharkan, conducting interviews and editing scripts on the computer. “Not eve in my dreams did I think I could do this work. All I knew about the radio is how to switch on the instrument when I wanted to listen to film songs. But where the songs came from, who were speaking over it, I had no idea” she said.
“But one day in 2007, an NGO we sometimes worked with called Sambhav asked us to attend a meeting. They spoke about how a radio works and selected 12 of us for their technical training. For nearly a year, they taught us how to manage and run a radio station. To record programmes, interview people and play songs. Now I can do all that work with ease” she added, her eyes twinkling with excitement.
Dialogue for development
Speaking at the inaugural function, Hamid Al Bashir, State Representative, UNICEF, Madhya Pradesh, explained that the concept of development was not circumscribed in generating electricity and construction of roads. “More than building infrastructure, what is needed is the transformation of the mind and sharpening of the intellect. This would be possible via information and dialogue. It is important that citizens express their interest and priorities so that the government gets its feedback from the grassroots. Shivpuri is selected to set-up the first radio station in Madhya Pradesh. This district has had many success stories in areas of better sanitation, infant and maternal health facilities, nutrition rehabilitation centres. If Radio Dhadkan is a success, our organisation will support similar community radios in other districts as well” he said.
There are plans with Government of Madhya Pradesh to start community radio in several districts. “This is a novel initiative and the district administration is fully committed to extend support to this initiative” said Mr. Manish Shrivastava, the District Collector, Shivpuri, while addressing the public during his inaugural speech.