In the context of the present rural scenario in Uttarakhand, the community radio has added value to enable rural households, more importantly small and marginal farmers, artisans, fisher folk and hill women, to actively participate in the development programmes of the Government and commercial banks being implemented to significantly improve the productivity, output and profitability of small farms, rural cottage industries, and fish-farming and to empower women in the decision-making process in the Panchayati Raj Institutions at the village level. This should ultimately improve the standard of living of hill households, bring hill prosperity and erase the rural-urban divide.

A community radio station, by its broad-based definition, is one that is operated by the community, in the community, for the community and about the community. The community, for the purpose of community radio, can be territorial or geographical - a township, village, block, tehsil, district. Community radio is confined to a small geographical area. It depends on low power transmission, covering by and large not more than 20-30 km. radius. It serves a community, which uses common resources for livelihood, has common development issues and concerns, which are relatively localized, nevertheless connected to national and regional development goals.

UTTARAKHAND COMMUNITY RADIO STATION

Kumaun Vani: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India had signed a Grant of Permission Agreement for establishing, maintaining and operating a Community Radio Station at “The Energy Resources Institute”, Distt. Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand in 11 March 2000. The Community Radio Station named "Kumaun Vani" provides the opportunities to the local communities to broadcast on a common platform and enables better communication and flow of resources between them. The main objectives of Kumaun Vani are: [1] to uplift the socio-economic status of rural poor. [2] To solve the problems of the community. Presently Shri Mohan Singh Karki is the head of this CRS. Its transmission time is 8-10am, 12-2 pm, 3-5pm. The programmes related to Agriculture, Health, tourism, Children’s programmes, education, art and culture Telephony programmes are broadcast daily. Supporting organizations are: [1] Vivakanand Krishi Anusandhan Kosi Almora [2] Chetioshna Vaagvani Kendra Mukteshwar [3] IVRI Mukteshwar [4] Private Organization.

Kumoun Vani has some distinct features such as: [i] It allows true participatory communication, which is essential for sustainable development [ii] It serves a specific community, which is recognizable for development as regards its characteristics and needs [iii] Its programs are relevant to the community[iv] It is an ideal communication tool for the illiterate population, which is still predominant in many countries[v] It is cost efficient in terms of investments, which will make it financially and socially sustainable.

SUCESSFUL CASE OF KUMAOUN VANI COMMUNITY RADIO STATION

The condition of hill women is even worse than it is in the rest of the world. Women in the hills are actively engaged in all the activities extending from the house to the fields. Women wake up early in the morning and go to the field or forest for the fuel wood and fodder collection. Fuel wood collection is the major time consuming job of the hill women. On an average, woman spend 3-4 hours in the kitchen and 4-5 hours a day in fuel wood collection and its management.  Women, as a weaker section of society in the hill area, are suffering from various health hazards as anaemia, back pain, and reproductive tract infection. Thus, the maternal mortality rate is higher in Uttarakhand  rather than in other states.

Viewing the critical conditions of hill people, the Government of India had given permission to TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) for starting the Kumaun Vani Radio station in 2000. Kumaun Vanni community radio station is amidst the hill community who are the prime target audience. The main objective is to provide the information regarding: best health practices, sanitation, child rearing, family planning, better nutrition aspects etc.

A rural women belonging to one village nearer area of Mukteshwar claims that maternal mortality and problems among the hill women were less after applying all health practices which were broadcast on Kumaun Vanni. This community radio covers 25 villages around Mukteshwar.  Another hill woman adapted and implemented the advice given on Kumaun Vanni, which gave her better results, and then the fellow hill women started practicing it. Now almost all the nearer villages follow also. Similarly even in the vegetable field, one hill women used the pancakaavia, as per the guideline of the programme, and this improved the yield, giving vegetables which helped them to gain profit. Ms. Renu from the same location, after listening to the programme through radio, used a neem oil-based preparation to control pests in her field. This gave better results in controlling pest and gave a good yield, resulting in good profit. She expressed that the information provided through the radio programmes was very much useful for illiterates. Ms. Anchal started a bakery business [biscuit making using Mandua- a hill crop], after listening to information on the radio. She earned income from this enterprise to add support to their family income. She was able to persuade nearly 30-35 women in the vicinity to adopt  their own bakery enterprise as a support to their family income. Due to her efforts, she became successful, and bakery became the main profession of the women of most of the households.

Mr. Mohan Singh Karki, head of the Kumaun Vani, said that “we are trying our best to disseminate the information among the hill women. Presently 14 members team are working to design, develop and test the radio programme based on need assessment of the hill women. Our CR team is engaging in designing and developing the message regarding the various aspects as youth employment, human right, farming, entrepreneurship, health hazards etc. Our main aim is to empower the hill people on various areas. Thus many successful cases are created nearer area of Mukteswar after establishing the Kumaun Vani community radio station.”

By Arpita Sharma, Ph.D,   Dept. of Agricultural Communication of G. B. Pant University at Pantnagar, India