Monday, February 28, 2011

Community radio could be monitored in Jharkhand not banned altogether if the govt fears naxals!

Jharkhand’s voices crushed
Author(s): Chhandosree Thakur
Issue: Jan 31, 2011

Naxalite fear prevents community radio stations

imageJainatullah Hussain (playing dholak) wanted to start a community
radio (Photo: Chhandosree Thakur)JAINATULLAH Hussain of Kisko block in
Lohardaga district is an unhappy man. He had been running a radio show
for adolescents who have health-related misconceptions. The programme
was broadcast through Prasar Bharti and the airtime was purchased by
Manthan Yuva Sansthan, a non-profit he had been working with.

Realising the need for more programmes for adolescents, he thought of
setting up his own community radio station. He applied for a Wireless
Operating Licence and allotment of frequency to the Information and
Broadcast (I&B) ministry. His application was rejected. Reason:
allowing community radio stations would give thrust to Naxalite

Hussain’s is not the sole case. An RTI application filed on August 12,
2010, revealed that around 25 applications from Jharkhand were sent to
the ministry in 2008 for setting up community radio stations in rural
and sub-urban areas, mostly by development organisations. All were
rejected at the final stage.

The I&B ministry had approved 10 applications. The Defence Ministry
too approved them on condition that “the organisations abide by the
broadcast protocols and do not air any programme that goes against the
national interest or contains anything amounting to contempt of

The final approval comes from an inter-ministerial committee (IMC),
which has representatives from I&B ministry, home affairs, rural
development and defence ministries, Wireless Planning and Coordination
Wing, Prasar Bharati and Council for Advancement of People’s Action
and Rural Technology. On June 27, 2008, all except the home ministry
representative, favoured setting up the radio stations in Jharkhand.

“The home ministry representative produced an Intelligence Bureau (IB)
report that said Naxalite activity in Jharkhand was at its peak and
controlling or combating Naxalism in the state had gone beyond
control. Under such circumstances permission for community radio
stations might intensify their movement. Thus, all the 10 applications
were rejected,” an I&B ministry official said.

There are more than 125 community radio stations in the country and
most of them are located in Naxaliteaffected states like Andhra
Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and
West Bengal. Jharkhand has none.

State Home Secretary J B Tubid said, “We are unaware of this matter.
The IB is under direct control of the Union Home Ministry. Had it come
to us, we would have discussed it with the higher authorities, taken
view of other Naxalite-affected states, shared their experiences and
taken a decision only after assuring the pros and cons.” Naxalism
cannot be a ground to take away people’s fundamental rights, said
Rajiv Kumar, a senior legal practitioner at the Jharkhand High Court.

“Naxalism evolved from the failures of the governments. I am not
pointing out any political party as such. The home department itself
believes that Naxalism cannot be controlled without social inclusion,
people’s participation and initiation of development activities.
Moreover, community radio has been considered an important medium for
rural development,” he added.

Shashi Bhusan Pathak, a human rights activist, said, “Naxalism is not
the reason for refusing permission. The government does not want
people to be aware about their rights. Earlier, right to education was
curbed by converting schools to military camps. Now, freedom of
expression has also gone.” The objections have come despite the
Centre’s acknowledgment to the Community Radio Station policy in 2002
after seeing its success in other states.

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