The Centre will give 90% subsidy to northeastern states to set up community radio stations to boost the sector and will also launch a new Doordarshan channel ‘Aruna Prabha’ dedicated to local content.
The move will serve the twin purpose of filling the lacunae in communication between the Centre and the region and furthering the BJP-led NDA’s government’s northeast outreach.
After getting a foothold in Assam, the BJP is been hoping for an encore in Manipur that goes to polls next year and the states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura that go to polls in 2018.
Information and broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu announced the sops on Saturday after some state governments placed on record a “sense of isolation” shaped by the gaps in communicating the Centre’s policy.
Citing an example, information and public relations (IPR) minister of Arunachal Pradesh Bamang Felix said officials mandated to exchange old currency in far flung areas of the state after demonetization were in a bind, as many people thought it was a hoax.
“These areas are not connected with the mainland and have poor radio and TV penetration, so the government’s announcement had remained unheard,” he told HT at the sidelines of the state information minister’s conference in the Capital.
Meghalaya IPR minister, Mazel Ampreen Lyngdoh had a similar story to share. She informed Naidu that when registration for Aadhar started in Meghalaya, people were suspicious that the government was trying to put everyone under one ambit. When protests against Aadhar registration began, it fell on the state government to quell rumors as public broadcasters All India Radio and Doordarshan has been unable to communicate the Centre’s plan.
As the I&B ministry gets ready to draft a new communication policy for the country, complaints from the northeastern region on the chasms in communication and neglect of regional customs, languages and aspirations have come to the fore.
Most of these states have highlighted the need for localised content, and airing programmes in local languages instead of Hindi.
“There is some apprehension and resentment in people that public broadcasters try to thrust Hindi on them. There are as many as 26 tribes in Arunachal Pradesh and a hundred sub tribes, they would prefer content in language they understand,” Felix said.
Lyngdoh too stressed that in her state there is “huge feeling” that the government is going for a “one nation, one country approach”.
The BJP has been assiduously wooing the northeast. From paying tributes to leaders such as tribal icon Rani Gaidinliu, to instructing all ministers to visit the region and raking up issues of local relevance, the BJP is trying hard to consolidate its base in the region, which has largely remained out of bounds for the saffron party.
The decision to provide sops for community radio stations is being seen as another step to consolidate itself.