To counter the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) aggressive social media campaigns in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has churned out any unique idea to take her work/schemes among the rural masses through community radio services across the state. Internal findings by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) revealed that though India made several headways in the digital space but there were many villages in the country, and in Bengal, where digital gap has been a major concern and people hardly had any access to the internet.
Therefore, to bridge the communication gap, the chief minister has introduced community radio services in the state to take government schemes to the farmers, students, skilled workers, self help groups, housewives, those involved in animal husbandry, fisheries and the elderly people.
Speaking to News18, TMC leader and advisor, Grievances and Monitoring of Social Programmes, CMO, Colonel Diptanshu Chaudhary (Retd), said that of over 6 lakh villages in India, only 2.5 lakh had internet facility, hence, radio services could be used to reach those living in rural villages. "There are 6.64 lakhs villages in India and the population in villages is approximately 29.98 crore. However, only 2.5 lakh villages have broadband or internet facilities. Therefore, digital promotion of government schemes for rural population is not a viable option and hence community radio services will be utilised to highlight state government’s schemes to the rural masses," he said.
"I think this is an effective way to reach out to the masses with government schemes like Kanyashree, Sabuj Sathi, Khadya Sathi, Sabujshree, Shikshashree, Gatidhara, Gitanjali, Lok Prasar Prakalpa, Fair Price Medicine Shops, Shishu Sathi, Shishu Aloy, Pathasathi, Swasthya Sathi, Sabala, Anandadhara, Yuvashree, Samabyathi and Baitarani, Swabalamban, Khelashree, Safe Drive Save Life, Mission Nirmal Bangla. In some of the villages, it has already been started but soon it will cover all the villages across the state," he added.
This idea of introducing community radio services is the brainchild of CM Mamata Banerjee who decided to utilise these services to promote her work and schemes for the rural population during a recently-held administrative meeting in Jhargram district.
"Sorkari prokolpo ke manusher kachhey niye jete hobe..ami mone kori community radio service ke amra bebohar korte pari (We have to take our schemes to the masses, and for that I think we can use community radio services for its effective campaign)," the chief minister said in the meeting.
According to TMC, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, people were tuning in more to radios and those residing in rural areas were more inclined towards these services to get information.
"Most of the parties are using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube for their campaigning but we felt that except very few, most of the people in rural Bengal are not comfortable with such digital platforms. However, they are comfortable with the radio services as it is easy to handle and can run on batteries during power cuts. So this is the continuous and uninterrupted mode of information flow. Therefore, I think this could be one of the best ways to take our Chief Minister’s work towards the rural population," Chaudhary said.
According to a recent survery conducted by the Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI), the radio industry witnessed an increase in its listenership with nearly 51 million people utilising the service, almost at par with television viewers (56 million).
During the Covid-19-induced lockdown, home grown listenership of radio grew from 64 per cent to 86 per cent as the time spent by people on listening to radio increased by 23 percent to 2.36 hours everyday, falling second after television viewing.