Thursday, December 17, 2015

Centre sends right signal to the Cuddalore’s flood-affected

Makeshift radio station set up in Cuddalore within five days of receiving SOS from Chennai.

As the focus shifts to relief and rehabilitation in rain-ravaged Chennai, it is perhaps the first time that the Central government has helped facilitate the setting up of an emergency community radio station within five days of receiving an SOS, at Cuddalore, 180 km away.
107.8MHz, offering listeners' services related to relief in this flood-affected town, became operational at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The Hindu had reported on Tuesday how thousands of residents have been cut off by waters.
The setting up of the radio station once again brings into sharp focus the need for communication services to be set as part of emergency protocol which in this case, was expedited due to some quick thinking by the Ministry of Communication and Technology's Wireless Planning and Coordination Unit. Usually, the decision of awarding frequencies to community radio is a process that can take days to months.
In the past, requests for emergency radio services have been made during the Kosi flood in 2008 and the rains that wreaked devastation in Uttarakhand two years ago, for setting up radio stations on a temporary basis to address local issues and help in relief.
The district administration had underlined the importance of community radio in emergency situations. The National Disaster Management Authority was also part of the discussions. But nothing came of it.
Team effort

This time round, as a submerged Chennai sent an SOS, processes for setting a radio station worked fast. The Broadcasting Engineering Consultants India Ltd. (BECIL), a public sector enterprise which provides consultancy services to the entire gamut of radio and television services, moved in with expertise after a local NGO Saranalayalam sounded them out on December 4.
The Tamil Nadu government gave the permission to the NGO after which the Community Radio Forum initiated the process of seeking a frequency which was given on December 5 by the Telecom Ministry. Mr. John Nelson dropped a mail to the senior deputy wireless administrator in the Ministry at 11 pm which was responded to by 1 am the following day.
BECIL moved its transmitter by road from Benagaluru, and on Tuesday night, the process of setting up a radio station began literally at 12.30 pm in the Cuddalore Collector's office where basic Internet and telephone services were provided.
With the help of the Public Works Department, materials like lightning arrester were put in place. The antenna came up at 10 pm and test transmission started soon.
"The Collector wants us to continue our services 24 hours a day till relief reaches everyone," Mr. Nelson, who is running the radio now, said from Cuddalore.
A 20-second announcement is played over and over on 107.8 FM. The-set up, Mr. Nelson said, is extremely basic but sufficient to start with.
The radio station is in the process of building a partition to separate the recording place from the broadcasting studio and work is on to fix the antenna. By ANURADHA RAMAN