Nearly ten years ago, a young activist in the hilly regions of Bageshwar in Uttarakhand, died in a tragic accident. He had been at the forefront of a promising community radio movement in the area, and passed away in a accident while shooting a video at his friend’s wedding. The team fell apart, and it has taken almost ten years to build a new team and start dreaming about community radio again.
There are already three community radio stations in the state of Uttarakhand. One is called Kumaon Vani which is licensed to the well known environmental non-profit group called The Environmental Research Institute (TERI), and based in Mukteshwar district. The other is called Heval Vani and based in Chamba, licensed to a non-profit called Ashtha, and the third is called Mandakini Ki Awaz which is awaiting its license. This station will be licensed to a non-profit which was registered exclusively for obtaining a community radio license, and may be unique in this respect in the entire country.
Pradeep Community Radio (named after the death of one of its charismatic founders) may just come alive again to become the fourth community radio station in the state of Uttarakhand. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan mountains, the community radio, along with the two latter existing initiatives, have been trained and set up by one of the oldest non-profit organizations in this region called The Himalaya Trust. Having seen the success of Heval Vani and Mandakini Ki Awaz, the Trust is keen to repeat the same with Pradeep Community Radio.
Maraa has been attempting to train and set up this community radio for about a year, through support for capacity building, obtained by the Himalaya Trust, from World Association for Christian Communication (WACC). Maraa has conducted three training programmes over the course of one year (once every four months roughly). The recent and final training was conducted between December 24-26th 2011, and covered the issues related to content development.
Although content development and production techniques have been covered earlier during the first two training programmes, it had to be repeated earlier, because the model adopted by the Himalaya Trust is unique in some respects. First of all, none of the team is paid a “salary” for doing this work or attending the training programmes. The Trust expects the community based participants to show some commitment and potential before investing financially on them. Therefore while the team is committed to doing some work for the community radio on a voluntary basis, it also needs to be acknowledged that it is a rural area, and livelihood options are limited, especially for young people. Therefore turnover has been high and Maraa has been asked to train people who are new, or is faced with a situation where people have been trained once have not come back.
The training program took off on some health based research which some of the team members conducted a few months ago in the same region. About 100 people were interviewed comprehensively on questions relating to health related expenses, awareness about illnesses and their causes, readily available public health infrastructure and so on. The results were that most rural communities spent about 50-70,000 INR a year on just addressing illnesses and also did not or could not avail the so-called facilities which the public health infrastructure is supposed to provide.
By the end of the training, the participants had come out with three ten minute programmes, each developed on some aspect of the health based research. One group came out with a capsule on how a particular village of about 500 people did not have a single tap for water, and thus has to depend on the nearby river or walk three kilometers for the nearest handpump. Another group spoke to a well off village to discover how public health infrastructure has positively affected the village. They plan to make other communities listen to the program and collect feedback on what issues people face when they are not able to access the public health infrastructure. The third programme was on home medicinal remedies and how they can be used to address specific illnesses, thereby enabling some of the poorer people in their community to save money which would be ordinarily spent on allopathic medicines etc.
Currently Pradeep Community Radio does not possess a community radio license and thus cannot broadcast on FM. However now they seem to have a fully equipped and trained community based team of reporters who are reqularly committed to producing programmes addressing local issues, and then go to the field and get them to listen to these programmes via loudspeaker or CD player etc, and collect feedback directly from these people.