Community radio + RTI > NREGA

My experience and wisdom say that the community radio policy (CRP) of the information and broadcasting ministry is more powerful than the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), especially when the CRP is complemented with the Right to Information Act. Let me share my thoughts on it.

What's the character of Bharat? For me, the hallmark of Bharat is its "information poverty". Although India is the third most populated country on the Internet, has the second highest number of active citizens on Facebook and the second largest number of mobile users, one-fourth of the country still lives in a dark age with regards to media, which means that more than 300 million people do not have any access to it. Consequently, they have no means to access or convey information. No wonder then that a large portion of the population lives unattended, unreached, unserved, exploited, cheated and their rights never reach them.

Consider this: For a country with a population of 1.2 billion, we have 247 million households, including 168 million rural households, 68% of the people living below the poverty line, about 500 million unique mobile users, 175 million houses with TV, about 150 million of the population reached through radio, and no more than 110 million Internet users. Clearly, media outreach has been able to cover a significant part of the population. Since our culture is oral media, any medium that is oral is more effective than one that requires the ability to read and write. And among the vehicles of oral media, the most affordable and effective are mobile phones and radio.

With the advent of the 21st century, there have been some developments that are likely to make a huge difference in the long run. For example, the government has made it possible for any NGO, which is at least three years old and working with local communities, to apply for and have community radio licences and for literary communities to run FM radio stations to reach out to people in a 10-15 km radius.

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