Radio Bundelkhand:
Giving Voice to the Voiceless

For the first time ever in the history of Bundelkhand, people have been using the mass media to narrate their own stories in their own language, using Radio Bundelkhand, a community radio. The purpose, as identified with the help of our communities in the radius of the radio station, is to work with them to use this communication medium so as to create awareness, extend information, participate in local self governance and provide entertainment - all based on requests and feedback from the community. The listeners include the communities in the radius of the broadcast range, with special attention to women, youth and the marginalised groups.

Radio Bundelkhand (FM 90.4), Apna Radio Apni Batein was launched on October 23, 2008 at the Appropriate Technology Centre of Development Alternatives at TARAgram, Orchha by Shrimati Prabha Devi, a member of a Self Help Group from Sitapur village. For over a year the community radio has been jointly managed and produced by the communities living in the area around Orchha in Tikamgarh district, Madhya Pradesh.

Growth and History

One of the poorest and backward regions in the country, Bundelkhand in Central India is a drought-prone area with limited natural resources, severe water scarcity, improper land planning and management, poor industrial development, limited livelihood options, gender discrimination and poor economic growth. The people of this region have remained both politically and economically separated and have very low levels of economic and human development.

Lack of information and awareness measures to empower communities; gender discrimination issues such as gender disaggregated access and control of resources and exclusion of girls from education; inadequate skills and limited capacity building opportunities; poor access to development services; very little access to livelihoods and lack of collaborative action from different development agencies are the major issues that need to be addressed and resolved.

When the Government of India liberalised the Community Radio policy, we in Development Alternatives (DA) recognised that this medium could be well used to enhance the participatory role of the communities in their own development. We facilitate a platform for the people of the region to gain wider access to information, understand their own needs, express their concerns, be heard and exchange ideas amongst themselves - all in their own language.

Since the community radio policy allows only registered bodies with a minimum of three years’ registration to obtain a license, we decided to set up the station but manage it jointly with the communities that fall within the prescribed 10 kilometre radius. In this phase, TARAgram, the Appropriate Technology Centre of DA was selected as the best possible option considering the government policy and accessibility for people from the target villages.

On March 25, 2007, DA applied for the initial level of clearance, which is the Letter of Intent (LOI) from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The major task for DA was to select the villages for programming and volunteers. Through the Social Action Group of DA, there was intense interaction with the target communities to involve them and help them understand the medium and the potential. In the initial phase of Radio Bundelkhand, a need-based study was conducted to get a feel of the programmes needed by the communities. With the help of our Village Resource Centre (VRC), we also narrowcast programmes on the issues related to their day-to-day life to listener’s clubs.

In August 2007, DA received the Letter of Intent (LOI) from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and applied for obtaining a Standing Advisory Committee for Frequency Allocation (SACFA) clearance from the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The, in March 2008, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology granted DA the SACFA clearance with 90.4 FM frequencies.

DA conducted a baseline research study in association with the BR Ambedkar Social Work Department of Bundelkhand University, Jhansi. The research brought out the communication needs and the issues to be addressed through radio such as water scarcity, lack of information and gender bias in their society. It helped in analysing the formats, and timing and duration of programmes that the community wanted. The research also played an important role in spreading awareness about the radio and in designing appropriate programmes. DA’s efforts in this field made the process more participatory and resulted in involvement of the community.

The model designed by DA allows the community to participate completely in the process of radio programming and broadcast. What is unique about the initiative is that we are engaging the community at every stage - from planning to make the programmes to take it on air. The idea is to make it ‘for the people, of the people and by the people’ of Bundelkhand.

Meanwhile, we sought support from UNESCO who gave us a project for purchase of equipment and training. Simultaneously, UNESCO commissioned MAARA and NOMAD for training and capacity building of the community radio personnel and for providing the transmitter. The Society for Development Alternatives came forth and provided the building and the capital expenditure. Discussions were held regarding location, studios and transmission equipment. Several rounds of discussions were carried out with engineers and radio communities in the initial phase of Radio Bundelkhand.

Finally, in July 2008, the Ministry extended the final approval of Wireless Operation License (WOL) to DA. After all the formalities were completed, DA established its first community radio station at TARAgram, Orchha in Madhya Pradesh. Radio Bundelkhand 90.4 Mhz. went on air on October 23, 2008 and from that day on Radio Bundelkhand has been airing local programmes for four hours every day. This is the first community radio licensed in Madhya Pradesh state in Central India.

Stories of Change

Making a difference through the Community Radio - SITAPUR

Sitapur is like many other villages in India where systematic garbage collection and disposal mechanism is a distant dream. The village does not have any specific area where people can dump their daily solid waste. People dump their waste on the roadside and near the primary school of Sitapur. The onus of handling this problem is on Ekta Yuva Mandal, a local body in Sitapur. However, this youth group was unable to tackle the problem of garbage disposal.

A villager of Sitapur told the Community reporters of Radio Bundelkhand about the problem when they visited and then aired this problem in the programme called Aas Paas on Radio BDK on January 15, 2009. In this programme, people raised their voice against the lack of a proper garbage disposal system in the village. This prompted the Ekta Yuva Mandal to take the necessary steps. It submitted a written complaint to the Tahseeldar of Orchha. Subsequently, the Tahseeldar directed the local police to investigate the problem and gave them two days’ time to clean it up.

This is the first visible impact of the community taking charge of their entitlements and is being hailed as a significant achievement of Radio Bundelkhand. As per the latest reports, Radio Bundelkhand is following up the matter.


Water scarcity is a major problem in Bundelkhand region. The women have to spend most of their time in collecting water. A village called Azadpura is no exception, where the women were facing problems in fetching water because there was no wheel in the well in Azadpura.

The women of Azadpura came together to raise their voice on Radio Bundelkhand. The problem was aired on the programme called Aas Paas. Within four days, the concerned authority of the village solved the problem by replacing the wheel in the well.

Building a Team: Training and Capacity Building

Building up the team for the community radio was a tough job. Young people from the community, aged from 18 to 26, were identified to work for their own community radio. The reporters from the village community include young girls and some young men from the deprived classes who have been trained in radio programming and broadcast with the support of UNESCO. The team includes a station manager, a programme producer, an assistant programme producer and five community reporters who have been involved right from the beginning of the Bundelkhand Radio. Presently, an extended team of seven members helps the core team in production and field coverage of Radio Bundelkhand. Four formal training programmes were conducted for capacity building of the entire team of Radio Bundelkhand supported by UNESCO. In terms of training, reporters have gone through several workshops which include confidence building and training in technical aspects. The villages that these reporters represent are Azadpura, Ramnagar, Sitapur, Basova, Bagan, Bhagwantpur, Ghatao, Jamuniya, Gujerra Kalan, Mathrapur and Ghatao.

Joint Management with the Communities

The community and DA jointly manage the station. This is a unique participatory model of programming and broadcast. The purpose, as identified with the help of our communities in the radius of the radio station, is to work along with them to use this communication medium to create awareness, give information, participate in local self governance and provide entertainment - all based on requests and feedback from the community. The management interacts daily with five Community Reporters and seven Community Radio Assistants. In addition, there is a Management Committee and a Public Advisory Council.

The Management Committee, comprising member representatives from the villages covered and local agencies are responsible for programming issues and decisions. This committee is established for regular updates on programme, content of the programmes and how the station is providing services to reach its goal. The Management Committee discusses the programmes on the feedback in which the community offers suggestions about the radio programmes and shares their ideas with Radio Bundelkhand. They also provide feedback on the day-to-day schedule of the station.

While the Management Committee looks at monthly updates of programmes and content, a Public Advisory Council of Radio Bundelkhand has been established to reach out to the stakeholders who can contribute to support the station and provide advice on sustainability issues as also endorsement for the community radio. This committee comprises members from district administration, academia, the banking sector, All India Radio, etc. The first PAC meeting was held in March 25, 2009, at TARAgram, Orchha.

Expanding Choice and Opportunities of the Community

For the very first time ever in the history of this region, a tool of mass media has been placed in the hands of the rural community. Every effort is being made to consult the community on important and day-to-day decisions to ensure ownership. The communities have decided that they would like information related to employment and livelihood opportunities, inclusion of women in development processes, girl child education, legal rights, farmer’s issues, training for jobs, their culture and history, how to ensure the availability of basic infrastructure such as water, energy and roads and any other information sought by the communities. The programming is based on issues and content identified by the communities and broadcast in the preferred format that includes the use of traditional Bundeli songs, folk music and folk plays, discussions, reports, experts speak, coverage of events in villages, jokes and satire, listeners’ letters and feedback. The broadcast timings in the morning and evening have been selected by the communities, with the women preferring the mornings and the men the evenings.

The oral traditions are very strong in this region and the rural community has selected the name of the radio themselves. The community radio aims to promote and preserve the unique culture and diversity of the region through programming in Bundeli – a local dialect of Hindi. It has enabled the people to broadcast in their own language, tell their own story and sing their own songs. Till date, Radio Bundelkhand has collected 600 songs and around 200 artists from the communities have performed for the radio.

Programmes on Bundelkhand Radio

The on-air programmes cater to a wide range of listeners. The health programme regularly features medical practitioners where they discuss diseases while the agriculture programme invites departmental representatives. The daily morning and afternoon programmes are entertaining yet informative and often include interviews on a broad spectrum of community issues. The station also caters to children, folk music for the public and recipes for women. The community announcements of local events are also broadcast therein.

Community Engagement

Community engagement is a major challenge for the Radio Bundelkhand. Making an impact on Community Radio at the community level is always a challenge, especially with limited resources. Radio Bundelkhand assists and encourages the community to define its own information and communication needs and also ensures that the information offered to the community meets the needs of the local people. Community radio has been supported as an integral part of accomplishing the task of bringing together the villages. This is one project that has the potential to bring people together, inform them and enable participation for the local citizens.

Women’s Participation

In Bundelkhand, the female literacy rate is less than 50%. The employment level of women is abysmal. In this region, women face the impact of poverty to a greater extent than the men. The women also suffer from severe discrimination and are kept out of decision making. Here, the communication medium is not in the hands of the women. In a maximum number of households, women have little access to radio and limited control over household listening. If we look at the participation level of women, it is not satisfactory. In many villages, women are keen to participate in this medium of communication and share their story. The Bundelkhand Radio has a programme called Stree (women) and Ek din zindagi ka (A day in a life), where the women have begun to share their stories.


Radio Bundelkhand is facing certain challenges:

• There is a power shortage and fluctuation problem in the area, so it is very difficult to carry out production work of the station. Sometimes when the programme is on air, if electricity goes off, the inverter of the station has to run for over 2 hours

• The region becomes very hot and humid in the summer months. Due to power shortage, air conditioner does not work for long hours and humidity causes fungus in the studio

• The terrain near the radio station is undulating, so signal does not reach to all our target villages

• There is no broadband connection for the Internet. Radio Bundelkhand has dial-up connection, which is very slow. So, it is very difficult to work with hampered connectivity

• Community Reporters have to cover long distances to reach the villages covered under Radio Bundelkhand. Moreover, the villages are not well connected with the main roads. While transportation facility is available on the main roads, the roads leading to villages are not pucca (cement concrete road) and there are no transportation facilities

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability is a crucial part of how a community based enterprise functions. Social elements of sustainability like volunteerism, participation and community support are as important and valuable as funds, perhaps even more so. They say a lot about the relevance of Radio Bundelkhand to the community it serves and the value that they place on its programmes and services.

The level of social investment that the community and stakeholders make in the radio is a good indication of how much they feel it to be really a part of the community itself or have ownership for. Successful experiences of community media reveal that if there is a sense of real community ‘ownership’ then the community - the audience and users - will do whatever it takes to keep the centre open and its programmes operating.

While we are working towards this, there are many miles to go.

Nibedita Phukan


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