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India: Community radio to strengthen grassroot voices in Andhra

Jun 06, 2011

Cheeded village in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has effectively implemented many development programmes through community efforts. In recognition, the village has been awarded a community radio-station to raise awareness on rural schemes and discuss issues like micro-credit or animal husbandry.

Cheeded, Andhra Pradesh: The 935 people in this tiny village are waiting to tune in to their own radio frequency, a reward they have been promised for their good work.

Cheeded, in Ranga Reddy district of Andhra Pradesh, will be the first village in the country to be rewarded with a set of radio frequency for its work in the implementation of rural development schemes such as NHRM, NREGA and those related to education.

For six months, volunteers with the Ministry of Rural Development—village-based cadres under the Bharat Nirman project who act as a bridge between the administration and the people—worked on the needs of the village. They even prohibited liquor sale in the village as they figured villagers spent an average of Rs 10,000 a day on alcohol.

The volunteers worked with primary health clinics to ensure better health and nutrition for the villagers, got the state government to agree to their demand of digging wells in the village (something that had been prohibited by the state in view of the rampant corruption) and got funds for constructing toilets in each household.

For all this work, the Rural Development ministry has decided to reward the village with its own community radio station. It is an incentive that will be extended to other such villages that score in terms of implementing development schemes under the ministry.

The Rural Development ministry wrote to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, recommending Cheeded village for an exclusive radio frequency, where members can discuss issues like micro-credit or animal husbandry.

K Chandramouli, Commissioner of the Andhra Pradesh Academy of Rural Development, said the radio frequency incentive was in line with the ministry’s aim of eliminating gaps in communication between the government and the beneficiaries.

“The community radio plan instills a sense of ownership among the villagers. Community radio is about concerns that both the listener and the speaker share. Why would a villager in a remote village want to know about the Prime Minister’s visit to Mauritius or Shah Rukh Khan’s tour of the US,” said Chandramouli. “For instance, the speaker can announce a programme where a woman from a particular village can share her experiences about borrowing money and setting up some industry.”

Community radio stations have a reception range of 40-50 km and villages in that radius can tune in. An exclusive set of frequency will be given to the villages that become eligible.

In Andhra, villages like Jaheerabad and Tirupathi have their own community radios set up by NGOs. These radio stations acted as a catalyst for development as villagers were made aware of the rural schemes through programmes broadcast on radio. The success of these radio stations encouraged the ministry to award radio frequencies to model villages.

It takes Rs 20,000 to set up a community radio station and the funds will be allocated from the ministry’s Lab-to-Land project, which focuses on ensuring that development schemes reach people and not just remain on paper because of lack of awareness.

Of the six villages in Andhra Pradesh that have their radio frequency sets, Cheeded will be the first to win one.

“It is not just radio, it is community action. In seven months, the kind of churning that took place in these villages is an indicator of the success of the Bharat Nirman programme,” Niten Chandar, Joint Secretary in the ministry, said.

“Rs 8 lakh crore is spent on rural development schemes every year. Cheeded is an experiment. It is a very vibrant community and every household has a toilet, clean water and reserve forest land. Institutional delivery has been fixed.”

Chandar said the ‘Bharat Nirman Volunteers’ scheme will ensure the right implementation of all schemes and programmes. Already, 20,000 volunteers have been trained in 40 blocks across the country. “These Bharat Nirman volunteers will see if their village meets the objectives and we will decide on the basis of their reports,” he said.

“It is ambitious but we are hopeful it will work,” an official said. 

Meanwhile, Cheeded is waiting to tune in.

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