Community Radio for the Disabled in India


Community Radio is a service which serves geographic communities and communities of similar interests. The content broadcasted by them is popular and local in character but it often overlooked by commercial broadcasters. There are three types of radio broadcasters in India. They are public, private and community radio channels. The main factors which make community radio stand out amongst others are that it is owned and managed by the citizens of a particular geographical area. They are non-profit organisations and operate for the welfare of the people. It provides a medium to express emotions, raise awareness and tell stories and experiences to the people they serve.

One such example is radio Udaan, which is an online radio for people with disability. It gives the people with disability a chance to show the country how talented and hardworking they are. It is produced and webcasted by people with visually challenged disabilities. This radio station has crossed nearly 100 countries and has more than 20,000 listeners. They are just like any other radio channel but furthers the cause of disability in India. It has been three years since Radio Udaan has been functioning and working for the disability issue.

Radio Udaan has a total of 28 shows, out of which 4 are dedicated to disability. This helps raise awareness on the topic of disability in India. This radio channel was started in February 2013 and since then it has held three national conventions. Most of the Radio Jockeys of radio Udaan have government jobs. They contribute to the radio station after working hours. In fact, since it is a voluntary organisation the employees are not even paid. They dedicate 3 to 4 thousand rupees from their salary to keep the radio running.

The owner of Radio Udaan, Danish Mahajan, spoke about the Right of person with disability act 2016. He said that the saddest thing was that the media spoke about every other bill, including maternity bill, black money bill but did not cover the disability bill. The only journalist which conducted a Debate regarding this was Rajdeep Sardesai. However, this topic was taken up in detail on the shows of Radio Udaan.

Radio Udaan hold panel discussions to help the blind people prepare for competitive examinations. They have shows such as ‘Lets play 20-20’ and ‘Ms. Confusion’. Twenty-twenty is like a game show where a question is given with multiple answers. The contestants need to reply by Skype or WhatsApp. It is based on general knowledge. In Ms. Confusion, questions on logical reasoning are asked. The show also teaches the students on skype. They also conduct discussions and debates. Debates are done on social issues and discussions on disability issues. For disability discussions they invite certain organisations and their representatives. Through these programs, discussions and debates they give a helped hand to the disabled.

The community radio also launched a campaign called Udaan campaign. Under this the radio jockeys in their area would hire a cab and travel 15-20 km in rural areas. Their representatives will go door to door and distribute pamphlets. They will talk to people and sensitise them about the of disability in India.

Ever since the radio was launched it has achieved a number of milestones. It has held workshops which focus on better socialization of the disabled. The radio station has held national conventions in New Delhi and Ludhiana. It has imparted online training on Information Communication Technologies to the visually impaired people. Radio Udaan began live coverage of events pertaining to the visually challenged.

Some of the objectives of Radio Udaan are as follows. To raise awareness about the topic of disability in India and work towards an inclusive society comprising of disabled and non disabled individuals. To be the watch dog of the disabled and human rights organisations. They also intent to reach out to the government and propagate the necessity of inclusive education.

One of the main challenges facing radio Udaan today is that of funds for proper equipment’s and editing software’s. The reason behind this is the financial crunch faced by them. Even though its monthly expenditure ranges from fifty to seventy thousand, since its inception Radio Udaan has just received 2 lakh rupees. There are very few organisations that have supported it monetarily. One being The National Association for the blind.

Just like Radio Udaan focuses on the issue of disability in India there are many other community radio channels who have taken up various initiative. For instance, Radio Sangam which is village level women’s collective. It furthers the cause of women in different areas. Such as biodiversity, culture, ownerships and food sovereignty. There is also the Anna radio which is run by the Anna Malai university in Chennai. It is the first campus community radio to start broadcasting in India. Therefore, community radio takes up social causes, whether it disability or women.


Future of Community Radio in India


In India, there are three types of radio broadcasting. Those are public, private and community radio. Community Radio is one which is operated by the people, for the people and covers local issues of the community. It is a non-profit organisation which works for the welfare of the people. Some of its characteristics are as follows. It serves a recognisable community and encourages participatory democracy. It allows a particular community to put forward their problems and work towards a solution. What sets it apart from the public and private radios is its non-profit nature and its emphasis on coverage of local issues.

There are a number of community radios in India. All of them are working towards their respective target audiences. For instance, Sangam Radio in Andhra Pradesh, Radio Matoli in Kerela, Barefoot in Rajasthan and Namma Dhwani in Karnataka. All of them are local and regional in Character.

For community radio to succeed in the future it is very important for it to clear certain hurdles. One issue is that of policies and laws. The government if not funding, needs to promote community radio from its side. They need to recognise the role it plays in social and economic development. Community radio alone can not be a medium to reach the marginalised section of the society. It needs to be accompanied by ground level initiatives. For example, the Udaan campaign by Radio Udaan. In which the employees went door to door distributing pamphlets and raising awareness about disability. It should be seen as an add-on factor and not the only means for social development.

Financial consideration and funding are important for the growth of this sector. License conditions favours well-funded radio stations as compared to low power radio stations. Since these community radio stations serve the poor rural populations earning a revenue through subscription is not an available option. Therefore, external support becomes even more necessary. Danish Mahajan, owner of Radio Udaan has spoken about the financial difficulties they have to go through. Their monthly expenditure is around 50-70 thousand but since three years they have only received 2 lakh rupees. There needs to be enough funding for purchasing technical and programming equipment and editing software.  For this external support through contributions is a must.

Community radio has great amount of potential to spread developmental messages. However, first there needs to be an agenda, based on collective needs, which will benefit the society at large. Most of the communities depend upon Non-Governmental organisations(NGO) to handle this whole process. A lot of communities have applied for licenses but it has been rejected due to one reason or the other. At times the processing time period is so long that the communities loose their enthusiasm. Everyone needs to stop depending on the government and take a lead in their respective directions. This is important for community radio to prosper.

In order to make it a popular medium it is important to speed up the growth in the community radio sector. More platforms for open dialogue should be created. In which the government, community radios and organisations interested in funding can interact. In these forums operational costs and hassles, technical expertise and funding can be discussed. All the required negotiations can also take place here. One of the chief problems faced by various community radios is that of sustenance. Since according to Ministry of information guidelines clearly state that government will play no role, they need to find other means of sustenance.  Community radio station can not remain dependent on government and need to find a solution themselves for all the problems encountered by them.

Workshops at the regional level should be organised to encourage people to set up community radios. Owners of successful community radio stations should be called in these workshops. So that they can talk about their entire journey and how they went about tackling each problem as it came.

To conclude we can say that the future of community radio depends mainly on two things. One is funding from external sources. So that they are able to purchase high-end equipment and editing softwares. Second is peoples participation. More and more people need to come forward and start their radio stations in their respective community. Since community radio is handled entirely by the people of the community and no amount of dependence should be done on the government.