The first Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Agricultural Science Centre), KVK was established in India in 1974. Now, there are 630 KVKs in India. However, only five of them run community radio stations (CRS). These stations are at Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, and Badnera, Rishod, Babhaleswar and Baramati towns in Maharashtra. I visited all of them this year.
In January 2014, when I visited Vallabh Krishak Radio (KVK Saharanpur) I saw, to my disappointment, that it was not broadcasting programmes after the transfer of its last programme coordinator. It increased my curiosity to examine closely the functioning of CRS of other KVKs. Travelling 1,500 kms in public transport was exhausting, but being able to understand the work of CRS of KVKs was the reward I received.
Sanjay, station coordinator of Sadhana CRS, Badnera, in Amravati district, said, “Our region is known for farmers’ suicides. Hence, most of our programmes are agro-based. However, we broadcast programmes for all.” He added, “The crop changes after every 15 kms in Maharashtra. So, we broadcast programmes for our farmers and their family members, which cannot be done by any other media.”
I met Amol, station coordinator of Swaranant CR at Rishod, in Washim district, with his team members, Irfan, Rahul and Dipak. Irfan said, “People here cannot go to AIR, Pune or Mumbai. They can easily come here and they keep coming.” Dipak said, “AIR’s RJs broadcast programmes. They have no attachment with people. But here people come to us, participate in programme production and invite us to their villages. Last year we received over 150 marriage invitations.”
“KVK scientists share knowledge with farmers, whereas farmers’ family members share their sorrows and pleasures though their radio,” said Dipak. “KVK cannot reach all farmers. Even, small farmers rarely visit KVKs. When a scientist of a KVK can talk to 40 farmers at a time, a CRS can talk to people of 40 villages at once,” Amol added.
Rupali, RJ of KVK Pravara CR, which is located at Babhaleshwar in the Ahmednagar district said, “I go to villages, talk to farmers, women and local singers. I cover Sangamner tehsil. I have also been given a special task to produce a programme on children. So, I am more than happy.” She adds, “We found, people were not participating. We started some innovative programmes, where youth, women and children came forward to participate. We broadcast live cricket matches and earned a good amount from the organiser. We reduced number of in-house programmes, increasing live and field-based programmes.”
I met Dipak, Asha and Sunil from Sharada Krishi Vahini, Baramati. Dipak said the radio could reach all by increasing broadcast time, broadcasting programmes of people’s choice and involving people.”
Though the CRS of KVKs are working well, they face financial challenges to sustain. Sunil, station coordinator of Sharada Krishi Vahini said, “If the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) considers CRS a major component and provide financial support, CRS would be able to give more space to farmers’ families, when KVKs give importance to the big farmers.”
Dr Syed Shakir Ali, Programme Coordinator of KVK Baramati said, “If agencies like Agriculture Technology Management Agency(ATMA) can come forward, CRS of KVKs can be sustainable.” He added, “If ICAR can provide special support for CRS, CRS will become an important part of KVKs in the future.”
Bidu Bhusan Dash, Academic Associate in Communication IIM Kashipur, Uttarakhand