Sunday, July 26, 2015

The megaphones remain mute

Debrashi Dasgupta,

image from
Chhattisgarh continues to overlook and under-utilise the radio to counter Maoist influence.
It is easy to overlook the megaphones affixed to poles all over this small town. Ubiquitous leftovers from last night’s shaadi or satsang, you would think. But this lot once had a loftier purpose. They brought to life every morning ‘Sukma Ta Mata’ (STM), literally ‘Sukma’s Talk’. It was an innovative narrowcasting project that the district administration devised in March 2012 to reach out to locals in Gondi and Halbi, the two most widely spoken indigenous languages in Chhattisgarh’s south. With Hindi still limited in its extent here, the outreach in local languages quickly gained popularity. ...

Yet, the megaphones remain mute appendages today. The local electricity department has cut power to them because of unpaid dues. STMs modern studio also lies in disuse, gathering dust and seepage. Its operational expenses were not much — it cost under Rs. 30,000 to run every month, including the salary for a guard and a technical assistant. Was it was too high a price for the administration to connect with locals in a language they understand best? Maybe linguistic public diplomacy wasn't a worthwhile investment in a theatre of conflict where winning minds is key priority?