Small and sustainable

BY sevanti ninan| IN Media Practice | 13/02/2014
Kutch's first FM radio channel, Saiyere Jo Radio, begun by a women's collective, costs Rs 25000 a month to run, transmission costs included.
SEVANTI NINAN visits the Bimsar radio station. PIX: The gaon panchayat gave land for the transmission tower

Sitaben Rabbari is in some ways the mainstay of Saiyere Jo Radio. The community radio station which puts out this transmission is located in a tiny building given by her on rent, next to where she lives. She is the caretaker and substitute operator. “She can get a pre-recorded transmission going when we are not there. It just involves two switches. She is also on the content committee,” station manager Ahmed Sameja tells you. This January they just went up to six hours of transmission a day.

When it started in June 2012 Sitaben gave the radio station a home for free when it had no money in its initial stages. Now they give her Rs 1000 a month as rent and caretaking fees. The land on which the tower came up belongs to the gram panchayat. Not far away is the Pakistan border. That this collective finally got a license it applied for in 2007, is quite remarkable, given how sensitive the government is about the areas in which such licenses are given. C R applicants in Naxal affected states find it almost impossible to get one.

Caption: Sitaben--landlady, caretaker, content committee member


The radio is run by a women’s collective called Saiyere Jo Sangathan, sponsored and organised by the better known Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangthan. KMVS ran an award winning radio programme on All India Radio, Bhuj, for many years before they got their own community radio station to broadcast from. Now the Bimsar Radio station in Nakhatrana Taluka caters to a mostly pastoral community. In the surrounding barren landscape the main source of livelihood is animal husbandry, people migrate with their livestock for part of the year. Sitaben herself rears buffaloes and knows what kind of programming is useful for the people of her community.

Caption: The Bimsar radio station in Nakhatrana Taluk, Kutch


The all-woman content committee has 11 members, and they meet every month to get a report from the station manager. Financing this radio station has been an experiment in raising local resources. The KMVS puts in Rs 10-15,000 a month from their income sources, community radio volunteers get travel money only. The local level programming generate occasionally gets advertising, for instance a local mason advertises his services on it.

Preeti Soni of KMVS says income from advertising is about Rs 35,000 a year. The station costs Rs 25000 a month to run, transmission costs are met from this.

An industrialist called Pravun Chede paid for initial costs, the transmitter and the studio acoustics. The people who run Saiyere Jo Radio also collect donations from the community.

This is Kutch’s first FM station, and the programming has a staple of two hours of devotional music in the morning, after which the focus is different for every day of the week. Monday - health, Tuesday – women’s rights (topics such as violence against women and, land ownership,) and on Wednesdays programming related to care of livestock, information on government schemes, tips on care and cattle feed.

Caption: Station manager Ahmed Sameja (foreground) in the studio


Thursdays are for farm programming, featuring experience sharing of farmers. Information on government schemes, interviews with agricultural experts and government extension staff are also a part of the programming.  

On Fridays, Saiyere Jo Radio has panchayat-related programming, and then something on art and culture. Saturdays are devoted to environment-related content, including water conservation in an area where water is very precious. They talk about water sources here: a local denizen who has dug a borewell will tell listeners at what level he found water. Sundays are for new information, including recipes!

The most common listening mode is on mobile phones, and the men and women who do so want programming in the Kutchi language, which suits their everyday needs. That is what this little radio station gives them. There is also cable TV in the neighbouring villages, but as both men and women say succinctly, TV is for serials which the children watch.

Local folk music is also something their radio gives them. On occasion, when there is a wedding taking place, people from that family will want wedding songs run that particular week on the music slots. It is programming on demand, very local, very rural.

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