Villagers at Radio centre, set up by CRPF 197 battalion at Tholkobad village in West Singhbhum(Manoj Kumar)
Villagers at Radio centre, set up by CRPF 197 battalion at Tholkobad village in West Singhbhum(Manoj Kumar)

Radio helps villagers of Jharkhand’s Saranda keep up with politics

A CRPF radio centre is spreading political knowledge among the villagers, who were earlier influenced by Maoist ideology
By Manoj Choudhary | Hindustan Times, Jamshedpur
PUBLISHED ON APR 04, 2019 11:15 AM IST

Jamshedpur

People of leftwing extremism-affected remote tribal villages, deep inside the Saranda forest area in West Singhbhum, are now becoming politically aware, thanks to the daily dose of police news they get from a radio centre set up by the Central Reserve Police Force in Tholkobad village. This serves the twin purpose of giving the tribals news of the wider world and drawing them away from the Maoist ideology that had held sway in this region for years.

These are the first general elections since Independence when villagers in Saranda are getting to know about the developments, political or otherwise, in other parts of Jharkhand and the country through the radio. In the absence of electricity and any modern means of communication, people here would earlier cast their votes without any clear information about a candidate, a party, or a political ideology.

Now, villagers are listening to national and international news every day, along with election programmes, all broadcast by All-India Radio. The CRPF 197 Battalion installed the radio corner in Tholkobad in October 2018, and people have been flocking to it.

The village, about 120km from district headquarters Chaibasa, was in the Maoist (aka Naxalite) grip for around two decades. From the 1990s to 2010, leftwing diktat ruled this area, but their influence began to wane after the CRPF 197 Battalion set up camps in the jungles. Before that, villages with populations of about a thousand people had got disconnected from the rest of the world and knew little other than what the Maoists told them. The CRPF radio centre, equipped with a loudspeaker and a satellite radio that runs on the camp generator, has awakened their political consciousness.

Local resident Govind Honhaga said that they had been voting for a candidate, as advised by a village level leader. “Tribals were not aware of the political party or the candidate much, until the previous general elections. But this time, we are listening to news about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi etc,” he added.

Another villager named Sanyaro Honhaga said, “Residents of Tholkobad and adjacent villages are becoming familiar with political parties and their promises to the public. We listen to the PM’s Mann Ki Baat and other news-based programmes. In this election, we will vote as per our choice — the candidate whom we find closest to the villagers’ interests.”

A senior All-India Radio staffer in Chaibasa, named Dilip Banerjee, said that more than 50 per cent of the content of news-based programmes was around the current political scenario and day-to-day affairs. The Election Commission and AIR ran election-related programmes jointly, he added, and such programmes made people aware of political affairs, empowering them to cast their vote for a genuine candidate or party.

Commandant of the CRPF 197 battalion Parm Shivam, who was once an AIR staffer, had taken the initiative to start the radio centre in Tholkobad, to help villagers develop their political awareness and be connected to the world. “This will prove to be a landmark initiative, preventing villagers from being diverted by Maoist beliefs; they will now vote for the right candidate as per their choice,” he said.

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