Good Morning Shivpuri: This is Radio Dharkan 107.8FM

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These are words of Champa Bai Adivasi, a Sahariya tribal woman who was speaking at the broadcast launch of Radio Dharkhan, community radio station. This is the first in Shivpuri district, of Madhya Pradesh in the central region of India. 50 villages of Shivpuri, many of which are Sahariya dominated (primitive tribal group), spread around a radius of 15 km from the district headquarters were connected with a community radio station on Friday afternoon, the 8th of October, 2010.

Initiated by Sambhav a local NGO in 2007, with support from UNICEF, aim of the project was to empower community members to create and access information relevant to their development needs particularly for Sahariya’s tribes. The radio team operates through the network of village facilitators, a majority of which are from Sahariya’s tribes.

Wife of a farmer, Ramshri Chande worked on the fields before she became a radio programmer. For over two years, she has learnt how to manage and run a radio station. All that high-tech modern equipment scared her at first, but now she records programmes, conduct interviews and broadcast. And with ease.

Speaking at the broadcast launch, UNICEF’s chief field officer in Madhya Pradesh Tania Goldner explained that Dharkan was “a radio for and by the community” to bring people together.

“Radio Dharkan will broadcast information on relevant topics like health, sanitation, village planning, education, immunization and benefits of government schemes,” she said. “And most importantly, it will give a voice which will be heard by neighbours, family and friends within the community. It will be a stage for discussions on caste discrimination, female foeticide and child marriage.” Goldner reminded that about 5,000 children die in the country due to reasons that are totally preventable. A community radio can help bridge the gap between people and services. It will also spread information on health so that no child will die for a reason that could have been prevented, she added.

District collector of Shivpuri Rajkumar Pathak said that the tribal population has less access to television and mobile phones and hence, remain less informed about government policies. “But people here still have a large access to the radio. The government makes innumerable schemes and policies for the benefit of tribals. But the beneficiaries never get to know of them because information does not reach them,” the district collector argued.

“Radio Dharkan can, therefore, prove to be the bridge between the common man and the government. It will be the appropriate medium to reach information of government schemes and policies to people who need them the most.”

“This Radio Dharkhan is your radio.” Supriya Mukherjee Programme Communication Specialists, UNICEF said while addressing the people present at the event. She shared that UNICEF has supported NGOs in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to set up the radio station and is supporting NGOs in Orissa, Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar to start community radio station.