Tell us about the journey of Radio Mewat?
I am a documentary film maker, and my work gave me the opportunity to travel a lot. My themes for films varied from suicides of cotton farmers to saris of India, from the handicrafts of India to the Border Roads Organisation and its work at the borders. Therefore one was moving from one subject to the other. However, this exposure also made me realise that there was a lot to be done in each sector- be it the weavers, the farmers, the construction workers, the craftsman or anyone else. Then I visited Bangladesh and I was exposed to the phenomenal work being done by BRAC. I was really impressed by their work and was inspired to set up an NGO. I knew that it would not be easy, as in India, NGOs (barring a few) are still not taken as credible organizations. However, I was determined to start working. That is how SMART was set up.
What is the prime focus of the Community Radio?
The one and only focus of the radio is to disseminate information that benefits the community, empowers them, gives them an identity and provides a platform for the marginalised and vulnerable sections of society to share their stories and talk about their issues.
How community radio is helping the rural people?
In all possible ways: they are getting information which they never had access to. They are using it as a platform to share their concerns, stories and achievements; to learn from each other and to be heard. The administration has become an integral part of the station as repeated demands from the community and airing of grievances has forced them to provide answers. Transparency in governance has increased. Panchayat has been made more accountable. For the first time in the history of Mewat Gram Sabha’s were held. This happened only after a sustained intervention through the community radiostation. Being an agrarian economy there has been a demand for agriculture related programs. RadioMewat has aired over 400 programs on various aspects of agriculture.
Please throw some light on your revenue model?
The most challenging part of running a community radio station is ensuring financial sustainability. So far, the radio has relied upon sponsored programs, outreach projects and DAVP advertisements. The parent NGO, SMART, has capitalised on this important tool for dissemination of information and has incorporated a component on radio programs in almost all its projects. That is how the station has been running and also won the National Award for Sustainability in 2012.
What are your future road maps?
We have set a range of goalposts for ourselves. Top of the list is to increase women’s participation; we would also like every household to have access to the radio either through their phones or through aradio set. We would like to become a role model station in this sector and would like to increase community participation, work towards increasing our reach and look at inclusion of all marginalised sections within the community.