Community radios play key role amid COVID-19 panic, lockdown silence

Several community radio stations and HAM radio operators are reaching out to people at regular intervals at village levels.

Community radio disaster
Several community radio stations and HAM radio operators are reaching out to people at regular intervals at village level | iStock/Representative image

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the country, and people from all socio-economic backgrounds are feeling the pinch. There is growing unrest amid the 21-day mandatory nationwide lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While an unsettling silence prevails across the country, community radios and HAM radio operators are playing the role of a communicator.

Several community radio stations and HAM radio operators are reaching out to people at regular intervals at village levels. The radio stations have taken upon themselves the responsibility of creating awareness about the deadly COVID-19 that has claimed 29 lives in the country until March 30.

Awareness, education and information

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Paul Baskar, station director of Dindigul-based community radio, Pasumai 90.4 FM, says they have a good reach at village levels and are making people stay indoors is a challenge.

“We started creating awareness about COVID-19 after ‘Janata Curfew’ (March 23) was implemented. We provide information on shops selling essential items, health tips to increase their immunity and on social distancing. We disseminate only official announcements and refrain from airing information related to alternative medicines,” Baskar adds.

Started in 2007, Pasumai 90.4 FM operates with 10 full-time employees.The radio broadcasts programmes between 6 am and 11 pm. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the station is also airing bytes of diaspora Tamils, narrating their stories about how they are tackling COVID-19.

A community radio for migrant workers

Coimbatore-based community radio Rathinavani 90.8 FM mainly focusses on migrant workers.

“Since Coimbatore is an industrial hub, we have migrant workers both from North India and from other parts of Tamil Nadu. Along with an NGO called ‘No Food Waste’, we arrange food for the migrant workers. Also this being the summer season, we are in touch with Coimbatore Corporation for water facilities”, says Mukesh, Rathinavani 90.8 FM station director.

He also added that they receive information from people regarding their neighbours who have returned from abroad. “Whenever we receive such information, we try to call the returnees and tell them about the importance of self-quarantine” he said.

A community radio busting fake news

Gayathri Usman, station head, Ramanathapuram-based Kadal Osai 90.4 FM, says, “Along with broadcasting government awareness announcements with help of film celebrities, we also bust fake news through our radio”.

Located in a district of fishermen, the 24-hour FM works together with district administration, police and local bodies.

HAM/Amateur radio operators mitigating panic

Professor Jaisakthivel, department of journalism and communication, University of Madras says along with community radios, HAM operators are also helping mitigate the panic surrounding the pandemic.

“The Indian Institute of Hams in Bengaluru, has set up an amateur radio station at the war room in chief minister’s Balabrooie Guest House to regularly update information related to COVID-19. Likewise, some HAM clubs from Tamil Nadu too approached our government to set up a radio station at the control room in Ezhilagam. But officials are unaware of the scope and reach of HAMs,” said Jaisakthivel, who is also a HAM operator.

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