Home Membership About Prasar Bharati Significance of Prasar Bharati About Friends of Prasar Bharati
What you can say  What you can do Recent news Responsibility of Public Service Broadcasting

Role of Radio in Disaster Management.

By,  Mr.Ashok Kumar Panigrahi, Mr.Bharat Bajaj& Mr V R Hari.

Courtesy www.i4donline.net

    This story helps us rediscover the power of a small local radio station of ALL INDIA RADIO  to address the call of the distressed . 

It is selected from the October 2008 issue of www.i4donline.net

           Amjad Khan, not the dreaded Gabbar of Sholay, but an 8 year old lad in a new shirt, given in the camp, is gazing at faces, on the platforms of Bathnaha railway station, which has been turned into a mega relief camp for flood affected people of Bihar. Eyes dried in search of his abba (father) and two aapas (elder sisters) who have been swept away by the cruel Kosi.  Embracing a branch of tree for five days and fighting for life without any food and drinking water, he was rescued by army personnel and brought to the relief camp of Batnaha.

         It took 10 minutes for the AIR team to make this boy speak and then he spoke, live on radio through a mobile phone. Voice choked with emotions and fear "Abba, ahan kahan chee? I am alone here. Please come and take me back". Hundreds of eyes surrounding him in the camp swelled with tears. Anil Tiwari of AIR Purnea, who was accompanying the team could rediscover the power of his small local radio station to reach to the hearts of the people.

        This team from AIR Directorate was dispatched to Bihar on 8th September to address the post flood distress of the victims of Kosi.  The IT team at Delhi had developed a software which could transfer all the messages coming to a telephone number to a centralised database and load it on a server space. A provision had also been kept for uploading the missing persons' information and posting messages from the field via internet.  Apart from enlivening the AIR stations, this team travelled extensively deep into the flood affected areas and mega relief camps. There were heart touching moments at every spot. People in groups with their invaluable radio close to the heart gathered around the team and poured out their despair as if they had found the most trusted relative for years. Akashvani had visited them for the first time after the catastrophe. The staff of local AIR stations worked relentlessly with a great sense of responsibility and dedication. 

       The AIR team, after reaching Bhagalpur on 9th September coordinated the implementation of the special helpline module from the AIR stations of Bhagalpur, Patna, Darbhanga and Purnea. Once the module was publicised SMSs, messages through message box and information of missing/found person started pouring in, which were broadcast at regular intervals by these stations. The team visited some relief camps and marooned villages around Khagaria and Sonbarsha. Travelling in wooden boat for two kilometers through the flood water, the AIR team reached Aakah villages in water to find the villagers waiting for food, clothes, medicines and drinking water. The roads in the village had become like canals and had converted the single village in to a group of small islands.

        At AIR Darbhanga the situation was amazing. P N Jha, A K Roy along with engineering friends were busy answering the phones at the console and directing the presenters in the studio. The phone-in programme being broadcast from AIR Darbhanga, thrice daily, was getting a wide response and was highly awaited by thousands of listners. On 12th September at 6.40 PM a choking voice in the live phone-in programme of AIR Darbhanga, is searching for his father who has been missing for the past 10 days. The message was on air.  At 7.20 PM a brimming voice came in the same hour long live phone-in programme "Don't worry; your father is safe at Saharsa". Radio again united a family. Manikant Jha, popularly known as voice of AIR Darbhanga, who was slept only for three hours in the past 15 days smiled again.

      All the messages received through SMS on the AIR helpline number were automatically transferred to a database and uploaded on a central server in Delhi created by IT division of AIR. The frontline stations of Bihar i.e. AIR Darbhanga, AIR Bhagalpur, AIR Patna and AIR Purnea would access this message and within no time it would be on air, reaching every nook and corner of Bihar.  Some of the announcements carried by AIR Darbhanga, Bhagalpur, Purnea and Patna were:

        Shri Bijendra Mishra, who is safe at SSB Camp, Bathnaha is searching for Sh. Shankar Mishra and his family who were at Balua Bazaar, Saupaul.  If they are listening to this broadcast, they may contact Bijendra Mishra  Sh. Bhavnath Singh, aged 65 years is missing since 01-09-2008.  Shri Prafull Kumar Roy from Naruar, Madhubani, is impatiently searching for him. Information about missing or found persons can also be given to AIR, Darbhanga, Purnea, Patna and Bhagalpur.  Akashvani stands with you during this testing time and will spread your message throughout the State. We are sure, with our efforts, your prayers and blessings of the Almighty, your families will be re-united.

        Hundreds of such messages are still reaching All India Radio through SMS, phones and internet, which are being broadcast regularly. Scenes of tens of people surrounding a radio set and listening curiously, waiting for news of their dear ones is a common sight across the relief camps, in the marooned villages and in the temporary hutments lining both sides of the roads. For people who have left their homes for the relief camps with just their clothes they could gather and the radio set this is the only medium to get information.

       In line with AIR Darbhanga the AIR stations of Purnea also started dedicated phone-in programme for flood victims of thirty minutes duration a day. The phones kept ringing and the messages kept pouring in. After two days, keeping in view the public demand, the programme was extended to one hour daily. The dedicated staff of All India Radio in Bihar was busy in production and broadcast of programme for the flood affected people, which is a praiseworthy effort.

        The current floods in Bihar were not just floods, the people who have seen it and have saved their lives staying on tree tops, stranded in the waters call it pralay (a disaster).  It was a national catastrophe. It was a challenge and All India Radio has proved that it is the only source of information and mode of communication, a trusted friend and above all the ray of hope. It had already proved this role during the tsunami, the super cyclone of Orissa and many other natural calamities. 

         It is well publicised for the people in the areas that are regularly experiencing the anger of the mighty nature to keep a torch-light and a radio set ready to face it. In the absence of electricity and uprooted communication towers the battery powered radio set is the only link with the outer world. Thus, these were testing times for radio and it proved that even amidst the glare of hundreds of television channels and glossy magazines it remains the trusted well wisher of common folks


|||||| Thank you for your interest.||||||