Struggle finds a New Voice with Radio Sangharsh

An initiative of Greenpeace India and CGNetSwara – Radio Sangharsh is a unique initiative tapping the potential of mobile phones in raising issues that concern the common man in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh

Press release - November 22, 2013
22 November 2013, New Delhi/ Bhopal: As Madhya Pradesh gears up for state elections, a new mobile community radio initiative – Radio Sangharsh – that aims to highlight the suppressed voices is making waves in Mahan forests of Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh. After a successful trial run of four months Radio Sangharsh has been formally launched and is being seen as a potent tool to raise issues that concern the common man in the villages of Mahan region.

Radio Sangharsh was set up by Greenpeace in association with CGNetSwara aims to act as a bridge between the local authorities, policymakers and the villagers. The villagers have turned into citizen journalists getting vocal about issues that have been irking them for a long time. All one has to do is dial a number and record his/her grievance.

Since July, Radio Sangharsh has been receiving six to seven calls a day amounting to 4,117 calls in total from 619 unique callers. (See table [1]) "A total of 3,545 calls were made to listen to the stories, which makes it an average of 34 listeners per day. This number is very encouraging considering the fact that we started only in the third week of July. Even the number of unique callers (619) is pretty high, as our on-ground reach was mostly to five to seven villages," says Anirban Chakrabarti, mobiles-marketing manager of Greenpeace India.

Of the total calls recorded, 49.5% of calls were about non-implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the villages. While 32.8% of calls were complaints against bribery, 10.3% of calls complaining about basic amenities such as, roads, ration card, BPL card, hospital services, schools, water and electricity. Besides this, there were 7.6% calls on displacement.

"The tribal and marginalised sections of the society living in far flung areas have historically been an ignored. Thus, Radio Sangharsh has proved to be a potent communication tool to not only create awareness among the villagers in Mahan, but also has become a tool for proactive policy makers, who can listen to people's issues – straight from the horse's mouth," says Priya Pillai, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India.

How does it work?

It's a simple tool. All one has to do is to call '+91 990 291 5604'. The call disconnects automatically and the person gets a call from the server with voice-enabled instructions like 'press 1 to record your own story, press 2 to listen to what others said'. The recorded messages/ stories are selected by a moderator. The chosen ones can be heard by calling the given number and pressing 1. Also they are posted on www.radiosangharsh.org.

About 25 'Amplifiers' or 'Citizen Journalists' have been trained so far; these amplifiers help people make calls and register their complaints. Virendra Singh, a resident of Amelia village is one such amplifier. "I have helped people record their messages and listen to the recorded messages as well." So whether it was the illegal numbering of trees or fraudulent Gram Sabha resolutions, Virendra has helped villagers air their grievance on Radio Sangharsh on a regular basis.

"After the launch of Radio Sangharsh in Mahan, more and more people are aware of their rights (Forest Rights Act , as well as rights of people in a Gram Sabha) and are now standing up for a free and fair implementation of laws protecting their rights in the region," says Pillai.

Background

Virendra is also a member of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) – a conglomeration of 11 villages which, over the past few months, has been working tirelessly to save the forests of Mahan from being mined and destroyed by Mahan Coal Ltd (a joint venture of Essar Power and Hindalco). The team of Radio Sangharsh has been working closely with MSS to create awareness.

Radio Sangharsh's team undertook a five-day long yatra on foot, along with MSS, across 11 villages in Mahan. At a public meeting – 'Van Adhikar Sammelan' – on August 4, 2013, people were further trained as to how the community radio could empower them to save their forest and homes and culture.

Mahan Forest

The ancient Sal forests in the region of Mahan in Singrauli district are reeling under the threat of coal mining. A chunk of 1182.351 hectares of land in the forest has been labeled as Mahan Coal Block, allocated to Mahan Coal Ltd (a joint venture of Essar Power and Hindalco).

The coal block was granted in-principal (Stage I) approval by the MoEF on October 18 2012, after substantial pressure from the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Coal Mining once the MoEF had rejected it. This approval came with 36 conditions which require a range of studies to be completed and the processes under the Forest Rights Act to be complied with.

There are 14 villages which are directly dependent on the Mahan forests and another 62 which are indirectly dependant for seasonal NTFP collection. Granting forest clearance to the mine will mean completely destroying lives and livelihoods of 14,190 people out of which 5,650 are from tribal communities as per the 2001 census. Allowing the Mahan coal block would mean opening doors for other coal blocks like Chatrasal, Amelia North and several others awaiting approvals in the Mahan forests, which will further fragment the entire forests in the region.

Table [1]

Total calls to Radio Sangharsh

4117

 

 

Avg. calls to Radio Sangharsh / day

40

 

 

Calls made to attempt record (including blank & incomplete calls)

572

 

 

Avg. calls to attempt record / day

6

 

 

Total stories recorded (excluding blank & incomplete calls)

392

 

 

Avg. actual stories recorded / day

4

 

 

Calls made to listen to the stories

3545

 

 

Avg. calls to listen / day

34

 

 

Unique number of Callers

619

 

 

 

For further information, visit: www.radiosangharsh.org

Contact:

1) Anirban Chakrabarti, mobiles-marketing manager of Greenpeace India: 09632203366;

2) Jagori Dhar, Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace India: 09811200481;

3) Anindita Datta Choudhury, Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace India: 09871515804;