By Prarthana Mitra
In 1998 for the very first time in India, a group of women in Telangana’s Sangareddy district went on air about their lives, hopes, demands and experiences. Sangham Radio, the country’s first community radio station, began as an initiative by the Deccan Development Society (DDS) and UNESCO, and is owned and run by Dalit women from the Machanoor village. Today, it is verge on the extinction, struggling to make ends meet amid financial and technical difficulties.
in the spirit of community: sangham radio is looking for funds to keep their station, owned and operated largely by dalit women, on the air. https://t.co/DzzUvQ2tHm
— Rosie Roti (@supriyan) August 21, 2018
The regular two-hour Telugu broadcasts have involved over 5000 volunteers from the community, catering to local Sanghams (self-help groups) assisting rural, underprivileged and marginalised women.
An NGO, working with farmers in the region for decades, the DDS saw community radio as a means to facilitate two-way communication, as opposed to the one-way conventional media. It is worth noting that this is one of the most undeveloped regions in the country.
According to The Hindu, Sangham Radio got its licence to broadcast in 2008, and has been in operation for ten years, reaching around 150 villages in its heyday. It took only Rs. 20 lakhs to set up and the jockeys themselves are semi-literate, often illiterate, local women.
What can you do to help?
“When it was born 20 years ago and was ‘licensed to broadcast’ by the Government of India ten years ago, Sangham Radio heralded a new media space for the underprivileged, rural peasant women of India,” notes the crowdfunding page, which presents a rousing case to save the powerful mouthpiece from extinction.
Facing financial crisis and technical deficiencies, the station is now struggling to stay afloat and has resorted to raising funds from netizens of India, given the government’s disinterest.
“The government has not paid for the advertisements aired and its dues to Sangham Radio over the last three years has totalled to ₹3.25 lakhs,” stated the appeal. The existing transmitter barely covers a 3 km radius, unable to reach far and wide, and “very soon even this may fail and Sangham Radio may be silenced forever,” it goes on.
Hyderabad Narsamma and Nalugindla Narasamma, the Dalit women behind the broadcasts, are farmers by day and curators of colloquial broadcasts by night. “We could not collect donations from outside India as we have to run the community radio on our own,” said Narsamma. “Some of our listeners have been asking us why they are cannot hear our broadcasts. We have told them that we need new transmitters and each one costs about ₹3 lakh. This is the reason we are trying to raise money.”
The crowdfunding programme is hoping to raise a minimum of ₹10 lakh to continue survival. You can help it stay on the air by contributing monetarily or with your expertise here.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.