Amritsar AIR station in the works for 15 years; tower issue grounds progress
Amritsar The All India Radio (AIR) station, Amritsar, which had the potential to counter anti-India propaganda in Lahore, has received shabby treatment from authorities since the project was conceived. Officially, the station, strategically important due to its location near the international border with Pakistan in Gharinda village, has been under construction since 2006. The transmission station has no staff, but only guards.
The stand-out feature of the facility is a 300-meter (nearly 1,000 feet) high broadcasting tower with a range of 100km. This was completed in 2013, but Prasar Bharati authorities inspected it and found that it was bent in its upper portion, effectively putting a full-stop on the project.
From 2014 to 2016, there was no movement; in 2017, a 100-meter high tower was built adjacent to it and on 24th of September 2018, transmission was formally started, though temporarily, from the new tower.
As things stand now, a 20 kilowatt FM transmitter is radiating sound from this temporary tower, which does not fully reach the downtown areas of both Lahore and Amritsar. Compared to the 300m tower, its range is 50km and it serves only a fourth of the area and the population.
In 2020, the Prasar Bharati allocated a budget for dismantling of the bent portion; the same year, the upper portion of the higher towers was dismantled; to date, there has been no reconstruction.
The transmission station remains locked, with guards on duty, changing shifts thrice a day.
Santosh Rishi, director, AIR Jalandhar, who also looks after the Amritsar station, said, “Only the engineering section of the department can answer your questions, as I only oversee programming.” The engineering department officials are evasive.
The purpose of the creation of a long-range AIR, Amritsar, was to use it as a facility for carrying the external service programming, particularly the Urdu Service of the AIR to Pakistan’s second-most populous city. The Urdu Service, however, is neither completely carried by AIR, Amritsar, nor is its frequency is included in the announcement.
Harjap Singh Aujla, a retired engineer from the US and social activist, has written a letter to Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur on the issue.
“I don’t think any other radio station in India has received such a shabby treatment. An agonising wait indeed,” he said, adding “To accommodate the programmes of the Urdu Service, Des Punjab Service, programming from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the AIR Rainbow programmes and the Vividh Bharati Service, Amritsar needs three transmitters. We have just one.”
Kulwant Singh Ankhi, patron of Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM), said, “All other radio stations in Punjab have a decent studio. AIR, Amritsar, cannot produce programmes even as this city is the theatre and cultural capital of the state. Amritsar has also been allotted a flawed frequency. Just like every other tourist city, it needs a Vividh Bharati channel of its own.”