Hyderabad: As it celebrated its 10th anniversary, a community radio station run by women from a tiny village in Telangana faced an existential threat due to the lack of resources.
Radio Sangham earned fame over the past decade for its role in bridging the information gap in rural areas and for creating a model for others. It is run entirely by the women of the Machanoor village of Sangareddy, around 125km from Hyderabad.
The first-of-its-kind radio station is largely run by Dalit women and marginalised sections of society with a contribution of Rs50 (Dh2.4) from each house in the area, and was started in 2008.
Launched by the NGO Deccan Development Society (DDS) as part of its efforts to empower the farming community, especially women, Radio Sangham emerged as an epicentre of a movement to preserve traditional knowledge and unique cultural traditions.
While there was celebration in Machanoor village to mark the anniversary, those responsible for running the village were worried about its future due to lack of resources.
The programme organised to celebrate the occasion was attended by big names including Al Amin Yousuf, Information and Communication Advisor for South Asia Unesco.
“The community radio is the movement of citizens,” said Yousuf, hailing the contribution Radio Sangham has made over the years by sharing community resources and the local language, Telugu.
“You are the best example of the Fourth Estate where you enjoy complete independence in terms of content and what to broadcast,” he added.
Yousuf said mining workers in Bolivia and Maasais in Kenya share the same spirit as the people in Machanoor do.
“You disseminate knowledge among communities and the uneducated. You are discussing about your local requirements and addressing them locally,” he said.
However, NA Shaa Ansari, president of Community Radio Association of India, criticised the government’s policies towards community radios and said very few of them were able to raise their own resources.
General Narsamma (an ordinary village woman not related to the military) and Algol Narsamma the two women who have carried the responsibilities of running the radio uninterrupted for a decade were felicitated on the occasion.
P V Sateesh, Director DDS, spoke about the serious challenges the radio station was facing due to the lack of funds and resources.
“We immediately need Rs10 lakh [Rs1 million, Dh49,743] to upgrade the infrastructure and pay salaries,” he said. He recalled the long struggle behind securing the license for the radio and how the initiative faced the opposition from government agencies.
Among many reasons for the shortage of fund was the failure of the central government in clearing the advertisement bill of more than Rs3 million for the past three years.
As the transmitter has weakened over the years, the reach of the signal was reduced from 30km radius to mere 3km. As a last resort for its survival, the radio has made an appeal for crowdfunding to keep its head above the water and continue the transmission.