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Yeoman service of Odisha's community radio stations during coronavirus crisis underscores medium's necessity in India - News Report
The state of Odisha has been a trendsetter on many fronts in the current fight against Covid-19. But what has remained unsung is the role played by 17 Odisha-based community radio stations in this effort. It took me a pandemic to realise the yeoman service that they have rendered in ‘reaching the unreached’. Low-cost yes, but not low on information, they have been catering to the information needs of communities in such remote locations where no mainstream print or electronic media reaches and worse, where even social media cannot reach due to absence of network to provide internet services. Equipped with a low power transmitter (50 watt), they are supposed to generate 60 percent of their content locally and in the local dialect, which uniquely positions them as the voice of the community.
When the coronavirus outbreak started, Radio Swayamshakti in Khariar, Nuapada, started a radio campaign to connect buyers with the milkman who had suddenly lost business due to lockdown. When the traditional media was publishing photographs of distressed milkmen pouring their unsold milk on the roads, this small but timely effort was changing things for the better.
Stations across the country have come up with locally relevant jingles to promote wearing of masks, social distancing and hand washing in the local language and dialect of that region. Call centres have been set up in the studios of the radios which not only broadcast the frequently evolving guidelines as soon as they were announced, but also answered listeners’ queries, thus providing an effective bridge between the community and the government in handling their grievances during the pandemic. They have even gone a step ahead in aiding the district administrations in supporting relief measures.
In Tamil Nadu, fishermen were starving since they had not gone to sea for almost one hundred days, firstly because of the ban and then due to the lockdown. Kadal Osai, a Rameswaram-based radio station promoted by social organisations, quickly connected the fishermen with Brittania and Muthoot Finance: Brittannia chipped in with biscuits packets and Muthoot provided rations to them.
During the April 2017 riots in Bhadrak, Odisha, with fake news and misinformation further fueling the unrest, Radio Bulbul rose to the occasion with bulletins promoting peace and harmony. In Odisha’s Nayagarh district, Daspalla-based Radio Surabhi’s popular programme ‘Suna Jhia’ (Listen Girl or the Golden Girl) was a much-needed intervention in a district infamous for female foeticide. Other community radio stations have tackled varied issues like child marriage, sanitation, women empowerment, skill development, nutrition etc.
I did not even know that the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology has partnered with almost 400 stations to popularise mathematics in different communities. Besides, the Election Commission of India worked with 60 radio stations to create a voter awareness campaign on a pan-India basis during the run up to the 2019 general elections. There are 140 educational institutions and 22 Krishi Vigyan Kendras who are running community radios.
I did not even know that the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology has partnered with almost 400 stations to popularise mathematics in different communities. Besides, the Election Commission of India worked with 60 radio stations to create a voter awareness campaign on a pan-India basis during the run up to the 2019 general elections. There are 140 educational institutions and 22 Krishi Vigyan Kendras who are running community radios.................