| 30 May 2024
Community radio rides on mobile in Chattisgarh

MUMBAI: Although India embraced 3G technology with the recent bidding, there are still corners in the country with no means of communication for the locals.

One such area is the tribal belt of Chattisgarh and inspite of population growth upto four million, the tribals are alienated from the outer world. There is no penetration of newspapers or television in the area and All India Radio also fails to fill in the vaccum. In such a scenario, freelance journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary has initiated mobile community radio in the region.

The All India Radio broadcasts news bulletins, but it does not address the tribals. As such, there is no news update for them in the local tribal language and AIR broadcasts in Hindi are beyond their understanding,... he states.

Choudhary believes the recent upsurge in the Naxal movement, recently termed as �Maoists' is the result of break in communication and the mobile community radio aims to bridge this gap. There is lack of communication and the media is biased in its coverage as there is a dearth of reporters acquainted with the local language of the tribals- Gondhi....

Choudhary who grew up and studied in a tribal school initiated a concept of mobile community radio to fill in this vaccum. Choudhary flagged off internet radio-cum-website �CGnet Swara', funded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Microsoft and the U.S. based Knight International Journalism.

The technology involves a server in Bangalore where callers can call on 080 6693 2500 and listen to news, record his or her own report and comment on existing stories. The stories then undergo moderation by Choudhary and other volunteers who approve the audio files to be hosted in public domain. The stories can be accessed on  where audio files are uploaded.

It is a technology suited for the rural areas as there is lack of communication channel for the tribals in the mainstream world. Although there is a cost involved for the tribals as it is a STD call to Bangalore, the rising number of phone calls testifies the need of such a service....

The internet community radio broadcast in four languages of Gondhi, Kuduk, Chatis Gadiya and Hindi has been absorbed by the community of millions with no other communication mode.

Some of the reports filed by the inhabitants regarding issues in the area are surprisingly clear and presentable even though they lack formal training. The rural reporting revolves around local issues of migration, land mafia, health and hygiene, industrialisation etc.... It is also a platform to record and preserve local culture as locals call in to record
local songs.

What facilitated the mobile community radio is failure to initiate community radio in the area. We perceived community radio as a means for dissemination of information among the tribals. Although there were no legislations five years back, the community could not have their own radio because of the high costs involved.

Setting up a community radio would involve millions to buy transmitters and it becomes difficult for the community to raise that sort of money. Also, another glitch is the area has become violent and no NGO would be granted license by the government to set up a community radio now....

The mobile community radio has given birth to citizen journalism and there is continuous flow of stories pertaining to the community. We translate the local stories in Hindi and upload on the website for the mainstream media to pick up.... Providing them a platform, this might eventually get the Chattisgarh tribes on the national map.

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