'Mandakini ki Awaaz' Community Radio is located in Mandakini river valley at Pauri in Garhwal, supported by a group of people from a tiny village called Bhanaj. Located at a 5 hour drive from the nearest town centre of Rudraprayag, this group of people aims at creating an open and transparent administrative and governance information system. The radio group mediates between the people and the governing bodies (panchayats) of these villages, in order to create an open platform where policies, schemes and financial budgets can be made available for public discussion and scrutiny. It was established with required technical support and training from Ideosync Media Combine (www.ideosyncmedia.org) and Equal Access (www.equalaccess.org), the two NGOs working in the field of development communication and long standing partners of community radio groups in the region.
Need for community radio
The village Bhanaj is situated on the top of a mountain which is an hour's drive from nearest town of August Muni which makes the people of this village secluded from most of the happenings and information. Therefore when Venu Arora, South Asia Regional Coordinator of Equal Access of and N. Ramakrishnan along with Indira Ramesh of Himalyan Trust, a grass root NGO based in Dehradun, approached August Muni to train them on the community radio concept, and soon encompassed village Bhanaj, as the need for such a medium was intense. The concept was welcomed by villagers with expressive solidarity and enthusiasm.A separate place was also set aside where the villagers have opened a Village Knowledge Centre.
The villagers were concerned about region specific content for their community rather than the one being broadcast from All India Radio to address the needs of local villagers. People appreciated the need to have their community radio as a platform to showcase their hidden talent amongst the villagers by giving opportunities to local singers and artistes. It also gave them a platform to air their views and opinions directly, creating awareness on many important issues like right to information, women's empowerment, etc.
The members of 'Mandakini ki Awaaz' society are very enthusiastic about the future of community radio. However, they are also interested in making it a self sustainable one. The members are wholeheartedly rendering their services and investing time and energy purely on voluntary basis. They feel that community radio is an enabling tool that can be utilised in exercising right to information and to empower the whole village by which they can bring much transparency into the functioning of governance.
Community members of 'Mandakini ki Awaaz' have distributed the radio sets in different locations of the village to ensure the reach in all demographic structure and section throughtout rural society. Another very important step taken by the CR Society is to involve the self help groups which are enacting as ICT SHGs. Presently there are two junior schools which are also involved in producing programmes for community radio. Mahaveer Singh Ramola, Principal of August Public Junior High School who is also one of the tech savvy person said, “Mandakini ki Awaaz community radio is one of the best thing that has happened in the region and I will do my very best to teach children about the use of Information and Communication Technologies for the development purposes and my students would produce programmes regularly on community awareness about various issues of social concern on every important occasion for the community radio.”
Village knowledge centre
The members of the 'Mandakini ki Awaaz' has taken special care to locate a permanent place for Village Knowledge Centre (VKC) that is open to all villagers, where they can have access to latest information Presently, the VKC is equipped with the latest computer set, printer, world space radio set, digital recorder and a small library containing useful books for children. Currently, the centre is acting like a common place that connects all ICT SHGs and Junior High Schools which produce their individual programmes and send it to VKC centre from where it would be further edited and sent to Ideosync Media Combine, which sends it to Equal Access to broadcast on Asia Development Channel (www.equalaccess.org/tech/channel.htm).
'Mandakini ki Awaaz' and Hevalvani Community Radio of Chamba set an example of how diversity can be made into an opportunity if the community members of the village have the grit and determination, with support from the programme implementing agencies like Ideosync Media Combine, Equal Access, and Himalyan Trust. We have to think, in the long run, of how to sustain the staff, for the VKC to become an integral part of the community.