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Manoj Kumar Deka
Date of Publish: 2017-08-31

Northeast India’s first community radio, Jnan Taranga, is giving a voice to the voiceless

 

Santa Kalita has a long story to tell about the journey of his life. So, we will start from the halfway point. He is currently a resident of Guwahati. His ancestral home is in Nalbari. He had left his ancestral home and moved to this capital city of Assam in search of greener pastures. He renders his service as a helper to a progressive family. Kalita, along with his wife and only son, resides in a small house provided to them by the house owner. Apart from running errands for the house owner, Kalita also prepares and takes care of the vegetable garden and flower garden during winter. He likes to read something whenever he has free time. The journey goes on.

Santa Kalita also enjoys listening to radio programmes and tuned in to a new frequency one day. He enjoyed listening to the new radio station. Both the male and female broadcasters have pleasant voices with a low pitch, a clear and resonant timbre. The bouquet of programmes have been arranged to benefit different sections of listeners. “You are listening to the first Community Radio Service of Northeast…at 90.4 megahertz”, he listened to the broadcaster when he had tuned in. It marks a new beginning in Santa Kalita’s life. He starts listening to the new radio station regularly. He listened to the broadcaster appealing to the listeners to take part in the programmes: “You can also take part in our programmes. Don’t remain a mute listener. Pick up your phone and share your thoughts with us. We will broadcast the information you have which may help others. If you are a singer, story teller, then please come to our radio station. We will air your voice, your thoughts.”

Santa Kalita calls the radio station everyday and takes part in the programmes. Over the past five years, he could not make a call only for single day due to some inconvenience. He reaches the radio station at 9 am every day, opens the door and initiates the morning broadcast.

Kalita, who was a mute listener and kept him busy in daily chores, is now an active broadcaster. He expresses his clear opinion on questions asked by listeners on different subjects. He can also meet people and record programmes for the radio station. His son Chinmoy Kalita runs the children programmes of the radio station every Sunday.

This is a success story, in brief, of the first community radio service of India’s northeast- Jnan Taranga. The programmes are broadcast in Assamese, English, Hindi and Bengali. Even though the target audience primarily comprises of those who do not get an opportunity of communicate through a medium their experience and thoughts, Jnan Taranga is equally popular among other listeners. The bouquet of programmes include modern songs, folk songs, radio biographies of eminent personalities, educational programmes and various other attractive programmes.

It was during mid-90s when the third generation community radio services were initiated in India decades after it took roots in western countries. The community radio movement for giving a voice to the voiceless people intensified in India following the landmark Supreme Court judgment declaring airwave to be a public property. At present about 200 community radio stations are running in India, thanks to relentless efforts by some committed and dedicated social activists. The central government too has acknowledged the role of community radio services as a tool for development.

Altogether 1930 applications were submitted till November 1, 2016 for setting up community radio stations in different places across the country. However, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has rejected 1125 applications on grounds of technical and other flaws. As compared to the growth in neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the growth of community radio services in India is sluggish. Lack of awareness on community radio in the country is considered to be a prime reason. The situation can be expected to change if conscious citizens including the teachers play a pro-active role in building awareness on how the community radio can play an important role in the development process. If and when that happens, the society can be expected to be benefitted by many more community radio volunteers like Santa Kalita. Chinmoy Kalita. This in turn will give voices to many voiceless in the society.

Manoj Kumar Deka

( Manoj Kumar Deka is an independent journalist based in Guwahati and an announcer-producer at Jnan Taranga. He can be reached at manoj.dekaa@gmail.com )

Photographs used in this feature courtesy Manoj Kumar Deka

 

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