Dr Preeti Bhombe is a Head- fundraising and communications at a nonprofit Snehalaya in Ahmednagar Maharashtra.She is also the honorary director of a community radio named “ Radionagar” .
In mid nineties Snehalaya started working for the rehab of commercial sex workers and their children, investing in their health and education.Gradually it has successfully expanded its work in the fields like rehab for AIDS patients, people with special needs, survivors of DV and child marriages, orphanage, adoption centre, slum development etc.
Here Dr. Preeti has shared her experiences about how the community radio became the voice of voiceless people and how it has helped her to be a better person.
The ‘Waves’ connecting ‘Communities’
The campaign to legitimize community radio began in the mid-1990s, soon after Supreme Court ruled in its judgment of February 1995 that "airwaves are public property“.Though the first CR or Community Radio was started by the Anna University in 2004, it was on 16 November 2006, that Government of India implemented new Community Radio Guidelines which permitted NGOs, educational institutions and agricultural institutions to own and operate community radio stations. Out of the 38 operational community radio stations in 2008, only two were run by NGOs and the rest by educational institutions.
The first community-based radio station licensed to an NGO was launched on 15 October 2008, when Sangham Radio, licensed to Deccan Development Society, in Pastapur village, Medak district, in Andhra Pradesh went on the air at 11:00 am. Sangham Radio was licensed to the Deccan Development Society (DDS) which is an NGO which works with women's groups in approximately 75 villages in Andhra Pradesh). Community radio is expected to stress on developmental programming, although there is no explicit ban on entertainment. So we can say that the first NGO approved to run a CR was primarily focused on issues related to women and girls.
Snehalaya felt that there should be a platform for their beneficiaries to express themselves and also help them get information about many aspects of the society of which they are a part of. The organization was already publishing a weekly but felt that it was not serving the purpose cent percent. The main reason was that most of the beneficiaries (mainly victims of flesh trade, abandoned and orphaned children, slum children who were child beggars, rag pickers children of sex workers, people living with HIV/AIDS) were either illiterate or did not have a special time to spare to read this weekly. At the same time the Community Radio revolution was taking shape and Snehalaya found a solution to their problem. After visiting some well-organized CRs in India, Snehalya’s Radionagar was inaugurated by senior journalist and social worker Kumar Ketkar and veteran social leader Anna Hazare. Fortunately, I got to be a part of this CR right from day one. What started as a journey as a part time producer for interviews and script writer lead to some great moments which really helped me grow as a human being.
The primary focus of Radionagar is infotainment. It is universally accepted that people listen to radio for music and songs. So making the listeners to listen only to information was not going to serve the purpose. Hence we decide to wrap the program structure in such a way that listeners would remain connected to us. Another important thing which we ensured was that to keep the broadcasting hours maximum and at par with other commercial radio and All India Radio. The local connect with the listeners was extremely important which would separate us from others as they were more generalized in their approach. Demystification of radio technology was another important aspect of Radionagar. All the initial staff working in the radio including myself had never seen a radio before. Hence we were a bunch of amateurs who were groomed into community jockeys, producer, programming heads by senior radio staffers. All our team learnt the different aspects of radio programming like scripting, voice modulation, right language, various nomenclatures, technicalities, following the hour clock etc…It was a new and exciting field of creativity and communication at the same time. Till then radio was considered a very complicated technology which was inaccessible to common people. Everything would happen behind restricted doors and only open to a chosen few. It was the first time that the radio technology and microphone was made available to every citizen who wanted to express themselves.
Since its inception on 13th Jan 2011, Radionagar has not only spoken about the social issues on which Snehalaya our mother organization works for but it addressed the needs of every listener who could hear us. We touched all the subjects related to the lives of common people. May it be current happenings in the Ahmednagar city, on ground and on air events related to education, health, art-culture-festivities, spirituality, sports-exercise, literature, science and technology etc…Radionagar always invited experts and laymen equally to express themselves. Women and children are the basis of Snehalaya’s work, so they were naturally an important aspect of our programming. Women oriented programs include segments like ‘Vividha’, ‘Hazaron Khawaishe Aisi’ etc… where successful women from different walks of life were interviewed setting an example for aspiring women and young girls. Women entrepreneurs, architects, scholars, thinkers, trekkers, social workers, actors, dancers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, sports persons, bikers, industrialists, educationists, journalists, politicians, novelists, poets have opened up and shared their works on Radionagar. Victims or flesh trade, children from the slums, local community representatives, women facing atrocities, young girls who have strived to bring a change in the society have come forward and expressed themselves on our radio. In house productions and on air campaigns regarding women health, laws for women, social issues like female feticide, rights of sex workers, girl’s education, environment conservation, have been created by the radio team and received an overwhelming response from the listeners. Many local talents in the field of music and literature were given a platform to display their skills on Snehalaya’s CR.
In last 10 years, since its inception Radionagar has knowingly or unknowingly focused on the SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals as pointed by UN in its programs. May it be sustainable housing for all, quality education or health for all; programs focusing on these goals have been created here. We were fortunate enough to welcome legends like Anna Hazare, Dr Prakash Amte, Popatrao Pawar, Sindhutai Sapkal, authors , stalwarts like Atul Kulkarni, Vikram Gokhale from the field of movie and theatre, artists, spiritual leaders,educationists and many more…Snehalaya’s Radionagar has trained a number of radio jockeys till date who are now successful RJs in leading commercial radio stations all over Maharashtra. Recently completing 10 years of this amazing journey, we would now like to take a step forward. We plan to become more and more community oriented. We plan to go to the community increasingly and give them a platform to express themselves. Narrow casting our programs is also on our list of ‘TO-DO’. As the reach of all CRs is limited (approximately 100 watts or 12-15 kms air distance) we have sought other means to reach the community. We are available on the link- ‘radionagar.caster.fm’ and can be heard on any mobile phone even without plugging in the headphones. We feel that this is the easiest way to remain connected with our wide range of listeners which have now extended to many countries including India. I feel blessed to be a part of this exciting journey and hope to continue for many more years…