Birsa Agricultural University runs a radio service for farmers
New Delhi, Jan. 23: The Centre has given up its earlier apprehensions and finally agreed to set up community radio stations in some of the most notorious red-corridors to give voice to those living in these Naxalite-hit regions.
Nine such radio stations are expected to come up in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in the next few months, the first one in Bastar, a Maoist bastion in the neighbouring state.
For Jharkhand, the information and broadcasting ministry has cleared two community radio centres in Ranchi — one to be run by Central University in Brambe and another by NGO Manthan Yuva Sangsthan which works among youths to promote rural development and art and culture.
Chhattisgarh will have seven radio stations — two in capital Raipur, one each in Ambikapur and Bilaspur, one each in Jagdalpur (Bastar district), Bishrampur (Surajpur) and Bhilainagar (Durg).
While an inter-ministerial committee headed by I&B secretary Bimal Julka cleared the stations, approvals of the ministries of home affairs, telecom and defence have also come in.
“The idea is to involve people more actively with panchayat level administration and day-to-day activities,” I&B secretary Bimal Julka told The Telegraph.
“The community radio in insurgency-hit areas will help in quick dissemination of information, especially decisions taken by local panchayats,” said Julka, who headed an inter-ministerial committee that cleared the stations after which ministries of home affairs, telecom and defence okayed the move.
So far, the I&B ministry has issued 463 licences for community radio stations across the country. Of these, 161 are functional.
Around 93 are run by educational institutions, 57 by NGOs and 11 by Krishi Vigyan Kendras.
Julka said prior to this, the Union home ministry had not cleared community radio stations for Naxalite areas, its reservations centred around effective usage.
Most of all, officials were concerned about the possibility of community radio stations being taken over by anti-socials or even Naxalites and used to spread misinformation. The government, they felt, lacked resources to monitor these stations. But over time, many have veered around the opinion that benefits of local radio outweighed such apprehensions and, therefore, such community initiatives needed to be encouraged.
In Jharkhand, for instance, Birsa Agricultural University runs Radio Hariyali broadcasting useful tips and information for farmers for the last 10 years. “The decision is expected to provide a platform for deprived and tethered populations. Before this, no permissions were given for community radio stations in areas affected by Left-wing extremism,” Julka explained.
The I&B ministry feels the move would step up community participation as the process of granting licences was rigorous enough to ensure that genuine organisations were the beneficiaries.