COMMUNITY RADIO and DISASTER RECOVERY
by Ashish Sen
Like most countries across the world, India is increasingly vulnerable to floods, famines, and natural calamities. Despite efforts on the part of the community radio sector to advocate for an enabling policy that strengthens its role in reckoning with natural calamities, official reaction has been slow and, in the main, reactive. License application processes of several applicants have languished on official shelves for unduly long periods. The case for emergency radio in the country remains to be endorsed by policy reform. Currently, India’s community radio map is conspicuous by the virtual absence of community radio stations that have had first hand experience of reckoning with natural calamities.
Kalanjiam Samuga Vanoli Community Radio Station is the exception to this rule. The station came up in the immediate aftermath of the 2004-2005 Tsunami that struck the coast of South India. Supported initially by UNDP, the initiative was the result of a partnership between two ngos - VOICES and the Dhan Foundation and the local community. (More details of the partnership are described below) VOICES was the technical partner. As Director of VOICES, I was involved in the effort to build the community radio station, its team and interactions with the local community. This was primarily during the period 2005 and 2008. The questions (and answers) in the report below are directly related to this experience.
Since then, my work in AMARC and as a member of the Community Radio Forum of India has involved interactions , exposure visits and workshops which have involved communities that were affected in parts of the country – in the East (Bihar floods of 2008) and the North (Uttarkhand floods 2013). However, there is no community radio station in these areas (there have been applications, but bureaucratic procedures have come in the way). Consequently, my interactions have also been limited.
I’ve also had an opportunity to interact with affected Community Radio stations in countries like Japan and Indonesia in the Asia-Pacific region and in efforts that the sector has undertaking to promote community based networks and collaborations.