The voice is at times is suppressed, at times ignored and at times unheard of...but it still keeps ringing in villages, in the mud thatched huts, panchayats, bus stands, pan shops, in the courtyards of temples, hills, fields, cow sheds, benches lying near the tea shops, charpoys of roadside dhabas and in many such places. These voices are the ones which the mainstream media carelessly or at times carefully manages to ignore, but there is an strong urge to be heard, thus it is being heard!
The community radio – though a new concept, is picking up in the hinterlands of the country!It is certainly not a romantic idea of the rustic villagers handling the sophisticated equipments of the radio station or RJying ! It is more about the community using the medium to voice its issues and aspirations. A community has a vibrant life and its various hues are being effectively communicated by the members through the channel.
The topics heard on the radio are of multifarious nature…. folk songs, ad of the missing buffalos, ideas of the small business (that could even include gathering peanuts and selling in the nearby markets), a sneak peek into the life of a women who lives in the nearby village, punditry on ‘how to get good harvest this season’, information on RTI, NREGA… and at times granny tales too. The programming is as fresh as jasmine and as innovative as weaver’s bird nest!
There has been a mystery about the functioning of the media…. No commoners know what goes around the premises of the of a conservative Radio station AIR (I call it conservative as most of the times it’s the particular tribe that mans or at times (woman's) the radio station for donkey years! The citizens are usually the hapless receivers and their ritualistic participation only left to requesting songs or sharing love life dilemmas over the radio ?(be it AIR or FM)).
But here the story is different …there is more than it meets the eye or rather enters the ears. It is about building the confidence of the people and the realization of the fact that ‘We do exist and our problems are not the common problems’.The rural communities experience the perennial neglect of the government.Earlier it was the mainstream media that would atleast report the issues but over the passage of time It is the media that has turned more hostile to the people than the government itself. The ceremonial debate on the 24/7 channels by the driven by ‘God’ like journos are mere gimmickry! In those discussions there will be a voice from the government, from opposition, an intellectual from an academic institution but the ‘common man’ on whom the entire debate is based , stands missing ! His perspective is never enquired by the media. In such a scenario it becomes imperative that the ‘aam addmi’ must speak out…and the community radio gives the platform.It is not just speaking on problems but also about the culture and communicating the local flavor of the community through folklore, songs etc. This the songs that were restricted to the special occasions such as marriage , birth or harvesting seasons are now on the radio and the singers are the local artists. The programs are not in Hindi or the standard vernacular language, but in the local dialect (for example in Himachal the community radio in Solan uses the pahadi dialect Bhagati and similarly in Uttar Pradesh the Bundelkhand radio uses bundeli as the medium of communication).
Community radio signals a lot of things….first the community establishes its unique identity through the medium, second the medium has led to a meaningful addition to the social lives of the people of the community as the people now discuss their issues more vigorously and third and the most important - the mainstream media has in a way failed the ‘rural’ India and thus people will exercise their rights through this tool .