NEW Delhi — At a time when people are confined to their homes during the novel coronavirus pandemic lockdown, community radio stations play a vital role in spreading and advocating awareness on social distancing, sanitization, and fake news.
Several community radios are working tirelessly to inform the communities in their respective regions, and some are the trendsetters like one radio station, Alfaz-e-Mewat.
This community radio first started airing the awareness program in the beginning of February, before the coronavirus outbreak in India, and after many others broadcasters followed the path.
Located in in district Nuh of Haryana and part of the the Sehgal Foundation, Alfaz-e-Mewat reaches 225 villages and is playing an instrumental role in broadcasting information received from the district collector, chief medical officer, and other govt. authorities, including the entitlements of the extended schemes.
The station started a program “21 din 21 baatein” (“21 Days 21 Topics”) with a message by an expert along with a thematic poem on frequent hand washing, access to healthcare services, physical distancing, the importance of yoga, and the time for self-learning on a daily basis to spread positivity in people.
Discussions on contemporary issues, including the coronavirus outbreak, and local folk songs on social isolation are presented to listeners.
A special program, “Savdhaan,” focusing on cautioning people from believing fake news and myths about COVID-19, shares the prerequisites needed to identify the authenticity of news. The “Áaj Ka Hero” program showcases a personal account highlighting a change made in lifestyle/behavior that protects oneself and others from spreading the coronavirus.
With scare and panic all around, community listeners share in daily live phone-in programs, saying that radio is their only source of information and entertainment during this period. Radio connects callers with experts via telephone. The station answers a lot of questions that the community raises — how long the lockdown is in the area and about their entitlements based on the information received from district administration and the health department.
The station also broadcasts informative jingles shared by the District General Hospital, Nuh. “Due to high illiteracy in our area, only audio can ensure effective communication,” said Fakat Hussain, RJ at Alfaz-e-Mewat.
“We review the situation daily and follow the advice of the relevant authorities. Our main focus is on providing daily updates regarding the lockdown, government initiatives, and what all essential services are available. We are regularly updating our listeners about the announcements by district administration,” added Pooja Murada, director of communications, S.M. Sehgal Foundation.
“We disseminate only official announcements and refrain from airing information related to alternate sources. Our RJs are working on rotational basis to fulfill their responsibility, and they also work from home where possible. If this had happened twenty years ago, it would have been difficult, because we didn’t have the technology we have now,” she said.
Alfaz-e-Mewat is using social media, IEC materials like posters, and the community newsletter, “Vikas Patrika,” to keep villagers informed.
Sonia Chopra, is program leader, communications, at S.M. Sehgal Foundation, a rural development organization, registered since 1999.