On Thursday, February 25, 2010, Gurgaon’s only community radio station celebrates three months of round-the-clock broadcasting to a community that has remained voiceless throughout the transformation of Gurgaon from a sleepy cluster of villages 20 years ago to a much vaunted “Millennium City”. The only civil society-led community radio station in the entire National Capital Region, Gurgaon Ki Awaaz is a platform for and by marginalized community groups in Gurgaon, especially communities living in villages in and around Gurgaon, migrant workers and inner city residents for whom the gloss and glamour of malls and glass-fronted office buildings is simply a testament of the uneven development that has taken place in this town. Broadcasting in Hindi and Haryanvi, the radio station is run by a team of community reporters, the bulk of whom are from these very target communities within Gurgaon. The station has been set up and is supported by The Restoring Force (TRF), an NGO that works in government schools in Gurgaon district, primarily in the area of infrastructure enhancement (such as toilets for boys and girls, and drinking water supply in school) as well as career counseling for high school children. TRF is also actively engaged in projects that light up villages using solar lanterns.
Gurgaon Ki Awaaz broadcasts 24 hours a day a wide range of programs that include programs on careers, entrepreneurship, migration, women’s empowerment and health, folk culture especially music, health, sports, and community reportage by school-going children. The station’s first trial broadcasts went on air on November 19, 2009 following several months of training for its team of raw village recruits, most of whom had never even opened a computer before. Many have not finished school. Today, the same reporters confidently and independently handle field assignments, studio recordings, editing and research. Within their communities, they enjoy new-found respect as carriers of the community’s songs, views, problems and concerns.
TRF”s community radio initiative is an attempt to intervene in the community’s struggle with inadequate power, gaps in education infrastructure, and lack of knowledge about opportunities in education, livelihood and income generation. This, despite the fact, that a large number of Gurgaon’s villagers either have substantial land holdings, or have substantial cash reserves from selling off this land. Also at the receiving end are the lakhs of migrant workers who live and work in Gurgaon, and yet have no say in the shaping of their environment.
The bulk of programming on Gurgaon Ki Awaaz Samudayik Radio Station, broadcasting on 107.8 MHz FM, is created on-site in government schools in villages such as Garhi Harsaru, Sikanderpur, Sarai Alawardi and Dhankot. The radio is a wonderful medium to reach the community – because by its very sound and music, it is very evidently “their” station. The station records and airs folk music and folk ballads performed by local music groups and performers, children’s music (much of it recorded by the children in our government schools), and debates and discussions very much like Chaupals, that bring together diverse, but local, voices.
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