Community Radio

Between 1997-2007 Stalin was involved in designing, training and producing some of the most successful community radio programs in India. He worked in partnership with the women’s NGO KMVS in Gujarat, to form Radio Ujaas, a community radio unit of largely illiterate women in Kutch who produce regular radio serials that are broadcast on all India Radio throughout their district of Kutch, a desert region bordering Pakistan that is rich in traditional crafts and music. This radio unit, which was a critical source of information during the 2002 earthquake, and which has nearly 100% audience recognition, is often held up as one of the inspirational success stories of community media. Radio Ujaas has produced over 200 half hour programs, documented music in every single village, and has caused a revival of love for the traditional music of the region. Stalin also made two programs in collaboration with the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Gujarat. Details of some of these programs are outlined below.

Aaykaara… / Hear! – (CSJ)

45 Episodes. Weekly. 30 minutes. Dangi. December 2006 – December 2007

‘Aaykaara’ is a dangi dialect spoken in the tribal district of Dang, and means ‘Hear!’. In the traditional tribal culture of dang the Village Crier (known as Jagaliya in dangi) begins any public announcement with this word. The objective of this radio programme was to create awareness about legal rights within the tribal communities and inspire them to break the culture of silence.

This 30 minute weekly radio serial was designed as an audio magazine. It had 3 distinct segments: Dharai Gyas, Barik Aas and Tivrapadana Tamasha.

Dharai Gyas (Expose) is a section of investigative reportage to unearth social and political scams – irregularities & corruption; culpability of government; vested interests; and people.

Barik Aas (Little hope) (the word says it all) is a segment to give hope. It is a space to felicitate individuals and communities who have demanded and struggled to get their rights. These stories are inspiration for others to stand up and speak up for their rights.

Tivrapadana Tamasha is a drama segment, where the reality of the communities in Dangs is reflected through the ‘watchful eyes’ of Bahulya(Scarecrow) and his wife, two fictitious characters. The Bahulya and his wife constantly remind the listeners to be watchful so that nobody can dare to dupe them.

The programme was broadcast every Thursday at 6.30pm from AIR Surat FM Station.

Dhariya Gher/Taming the Ocean – (KMVS)

35 Episodes. Weekly. 30 minutes. Kutchi. September 2006 – May 2007

This 30 minute weekly radio series was designed as an audio magazine with the objective of inspiring the fishing community to unite and demand their rights through legal awareness. The interview segment ‘Gher Ji Galiyu’ featured interviews with fisherfolk, government officials, people from other communities and other stakeholders; the Phone-in Segment featured legal information requested by fisherfolks through phone calls; in the drama segment fictitious characters in a fictitious village of fisherfolks reflect on the reality of their lives which inspires listeners to unite to demand their rights. The programme was broadcast every Thursday at 8.00pm from AIR Rajkot Station.

Bandhani ji Gaal / Voice of Women– (KMVS)

53 Episodes. Weekly. 30 minutes. Kutchi. January 2005 – March 2006

Patriarchal values are perpetuated by several institutions and belief systems, most of which go unchallenged. One such factor that contributes to gender discrimination is the all prevalent ‘proverbs’ and ‘sayings’ that are anti-women. Sayings like “a woman is only half as good as a man” and “a woman’s brain is in her feet” need to be challenged. Bandhani ji Gaal is an attempt to seek the truth, rather than the falsity, behind such sayings. Each episode takes up one or two such sayings and deconstructs them and proves them wrong using actual case-studies of independent and empowered rural women. At the end of each episode the program gives a ‘re-worked’ saying that is not discriminatory to women. These ‘true’ or  ‘re-worked’ sayings are given by the audience through the feedback letters they write!

Running parallel to Bandhani Ji Gaal is another program Musaferi which is actually the magico-realist travelogue segment of the previous programme Kutch Lokji Vani. This segment was re-mastered and broadcast by popular demand.

Kutch Lokji Vani / Voice of the People of Kutch– (KMVS)

53 Episodes. Weekly. 45 minutes. Kutchi. July 2002 – August 2003

The vision guiding the programme was to move towards greater community participation. This 45 minute weekly radio serial was designed as an audio magazine. It had 3 distinct sections: Pardafaash (Expose), Musaferi (A magico-realist travelogue) and Lokvani (People’s Voice). Like the previous programmes, this too went on to become a very popular programme on radio in kutchi language.

Pardafaash (Expose) is the investigative reportage to unearth social and political scams: irregularities & corruption in rehabilitation works; culpability of government; vested interests; and people. Its impact: people have started debating and questioning, redressal forums have emerged as the voice of the weaker sections, people mark a copy to the KLV program. It became a very good example of Radio Activism.

Musaferi is a magico-realist travelogue segment with the Vayro (Wind), Dharti (Earth) and Kala Dungar (Mountain) as partners in the journey. This section resurrects history, culture, music and legends of Kutch, re-interpreting them in the contemporary context arguing with tradition and modernity and voicing silenced cultures.

Lok Vaani is a segment for direct community participation through Lok Mat (opinion poll), Charcha (studio debate) and Farmaish (people’s requests)

Tu Jiriyo Ai! / To Be Alive! – (KMVS)

37 Episodes. Bi-Weekly. 15 minutes. Kutchi. March – June 2001.

Following the Earthquake in January 2001, this radio serial was designed to plug in a very real need of the people to get true and quick information about relief and rehabilitation, provide a platform for exchange of ideas and perspectives between village people, the government and NGOs, as well as to provide people with a space to voice their emotions, and to keep alive the Kutchi spirit of self-help, dignity and pride. This program (in interview format) was entirely handled by the reporters who felt this was the best way to utilize their skills and contribute in times of crisis.

Kunjal Panje Kutchji / Sarus Crane of our Kutch – (KMVS)

53 Episodes. Weekly. 30 minutes. Kutchi. December 1999 – January 2001

The aim of this program was to generate a debate in the Kutchi society on gender and swaraj and reflect on local culture with participation of local communities.

The serial explores the changing identity of women and the response it evokes from the society, through the character of Rani, the woman sarpanch of Ujjas village, as she steps out from her home (private domain) into the village panchayat (public domain); thus simultaneously generating a debate on gender issues as well as Swaraj (self-governance).

The program was designed as a serialized drama with songs and an interview section. The sutradhar (anchor) of the drama section is Kunjal, a Sarus Crane – a much loved and revered bird in local folklore, who has flown into Kutch from lands faraway claiming it as her ‘peehar’ (parental home) to a mythical village called Ujjas (light). She envelops the events and people of Ujjas village with her warm, loving and mischievous banter, bringing them home to the radio listeners of Kutch. Kutch Kochhanto (Kutch Speaks) is a 6-7 minute interview module within the programme, which ensures a space to the voices of people from Kutch.

  • KMVS was awarded The Chameli Devi Jain Award, 2000 for its innovative and pioneering community radio initiative for rural development.

To hear a short interview (in Hindi) with Stalin about community radio click here.

A second interview with Stalin discusses the impact (and dangers) of using community radio to speak out.

This BBC article, which profiles Stalin’s work,  documents the power of community radio.


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