The lack of funds does not stop this community radio station from making a mark

A small youth group in Rudraprayag (Uttarakhand), keen to do good work in communication, didn’t know where to begin. Harendra, Devendra, Rajendra and Chitra had plenty of good ideas, but no money to transform them into media work that could reach people.

They were most attracted by the radio, which appeared as the best medium to reach people in the remote Himalayan villages and hamlets. Even as they gathered resources for making programmes on shoe-string budgets, these young people did not get the broadcasting rights. So they had to content themselves with 'narrowcasting' - taking their radio programmes to villages to be heard by groups of villagers.

While this reduced their reach, they managed to attract many listeners to their radio called ‘Mandakini Ki Awaaz’. The programmes tried to take up neglected but important grassroots issues. When the local dominant trend was for young people migrating to cities on the plains, ‘Mandakini Ki Awaaj’ had programmes that showed the flip side of educated youth leaving their villages forever. When there was talk of building earthquake resistant houses, this community radio questioned why the same concern was not being shown for the side-houses where farm animals were kept.

Some of the stories with a focus on neglected issues managed to have an impact and people took notice. When Radha Shukla, from voluntary organisation Shramik Bharti saw the efforts being made, she invited one of the team members Sanjay Kothiyal to help in a similar effort in Kanpur.

In Kanpur also, the ‘narrow casting’ Gyan Vani functions on a shoe-string budget but its programmes on spread of sustainable organic farming practices are appreciated by farmers and the community radio unit gets a regular feed-back. The programme on organic farming called ‘Jiya Mein Uthat Hilor’ (Something Moves My Heart) used music, song and drama to inform villagers about ill effects of chemical pesticides and polluting farming practices. It also included songs sung by villagers themselves. The programme uses, among other things, a conversation between a river and a scarecrow to convey its message.

Participative efforts with the villagers also nudged them to think about neglected issues, says Radha, a key player in the conception of the programmes. Consuming loads of pan masala and gutka was a routine activity till participative research by ‘Gyan Vani’ told villagers that Rs. 2 lakh per month was being drained from their village by this wasteful expenditure which actually means paying hard-earned money for ‘buying’ serious health hazards.

Attracted by their innovative methods, Indira Gandhi National Open University started broadcasting some of their programmes, with a reach of hundreds of villages in neighbouring districts as well.