Until recently few people in Takhel, a remote village tucked away on the slopes of the Baruni hills in Manipur's Imphal East district, knew what was going on in the world outside. It has no electricity — and thus no TV or radio sets — and few of its 5000 odd residents are literate enough to read newspapers. But from January 2004 it all began to change.
That was when one of the few educated farmers there, 48-year-old Karam Biren decided to launch what has come to be called the Paothang Channel in the village. This is no TV channel, but a regular morning news reading programme.
With financial support from zila parishad member Tensubam Ratan, Biren bought and installed a microphone and a public address system with a back up power battery in the village square.
Biren has ensured that all the local Manipuri dailies are delivered to him every morning. Soon after, at 7.30, he, along with an educated village girl Arambam Romita, reads the important news items out aloud in the village square.
"Our effort is bridge the communication gap between the world and illiterate villagers" said Biren.
Romita reads out the main headlines and elaborates briefly on them, while Biren takes up the sports news. Both are paid Rs 250 per month by the zila parishad.
Of course, whenever the morning newspapers do not reach Takhel village for some reason, the reading has to be cancelled.
The number of people who gather to listen has been growing by the day. Some of the literate among them are now even considering buying a newspaper. "After listening to Paothan, I'm thinking of subscribing to a newspaper as I want to know more about daily happenings" Ningthoujam Jiten, a farmer from the village, told