KORAPUT: In the tribally dominated Koraput bloc, where government benefits rarely reach grassroots people, a community radio station – Dhimsa – has become a tool for social change.
Established by South Odisha Voluntary Action (SOVA) with the support of UNICEF in 2008 in Chhapar village in the block, the community radio broadcast information on government programs, highlighting various issues and news through broadcast targeted in Desia language and other local dialects.
It extends within a radius of 12 km, covering a population of 1,25,000 people in 63 six-gram panchayat villages. Listeners’ clubs have been set up in each of these villages.
From food sovereignty and organic farming to women’s health and empowerment and issues faced by children, the issues that community radio brings to light are many.
“We also provide a platform for rural residents to air their grievances and for artists to showcase their talent,” said SOVA Secretary Sanjit Patnaik.
Radio Dhimsa broadcasts nine hours a day, including one hour of live broadcast where news about government programs, people’s rights and issues are highlighted by journalists. The community radio station has 12 reporters who travel extensively throughout the rural areas of the district and interview villagers.
While the mornings are for programs like ‘Gitkudi’ (Musical Performance by Tribal Artists, ‘Sust Gagod’ (Good Health), ‘Chasi Bhaitanay Podey (Farming Updates and Techniques), the evenings are for performances specials like ‘Kenta Koley Kenta Hoisi’ which focuses on how to avail government benefits and ‘Emti Amor Gaon’ where villagers are trained in skills such as leaf plate making, paddy conservation and bamboo products, among others.
Station supervisor Udaynath Hantal said that with schools closed, they are also focusing on reducing the education deficit in tribal villages.
“We recruited teachers who teach children about different subjects in the classroom in a program called Pathsala. Also, Anganwadi workers and ANMs have a “Katakoru” phone program where they talk to women about various health and livelihood issues,” he added.
As the state government’s awareness campaigns on do’s and don’ts during Covid-19 are mostly in the Odia language, radio has played an important role in generating and disseminating information related to the disease and its preventive measures in local dialects.
This time, as the state faces a third wave, similar arrangements have been put in place, Sanjit said.
He added that since mountains sometimes impede broadcasting, the state government should consider establishing FM stations in every city block so that radio programs reach many more people.