Why Naveen is unable to speak his ‘Mann Ki Baat’?

By-Subrat Kumar Pati

On August 2016 the public was informed from the Odisha Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) that every month, the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik would speak to the people through radio broadcasting alike the style of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It sparked a series of speculations on the use of radio as a mean to reach out to people. Dreams were shown of each district in the state to have its own community radio station with the utilization of the infrastructure network of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK). This paved way for the formation of the ‘Biju Gaon Radio Yojana’.

This was aimed to reach out to the common people in this hyper local broadcasting medium of community radios to inform them about the public announcements of the government and other important communications needed for the general mass to create awareness on different facets of the government. It was decided that each KVK will host one community radio station and it will come under the jurisdiction of the state agriculture department. A meeting was then convened in the state secretariat to start this programme at the earliest at that point of time. Community radio stations are the third tier broadcasting system in India after public broadcaster-All India Radio (AIR) and commercial private FM channels.

For the people living in rural areas, the radio broadcasting could have helped them to empower them with information which is the mandate of community radio stations. Through such radio stations it was envisioned that the rural population will be disseminated with contents focusing on agriculture, irrigation, health, disaster preparedness and others. It was also planned to reach to the SHGs, farmers’ organisation and youth, tribals and school students. Plans were there to cater to the needs of these segments of population in the state.

This was the maiden attempt by any state government in India into this direction. It was a noble idea to utilise radio broadcasting on such massive scale for public welfare. It was a different kind of content and went well with the radio enthusiasts and people working in this sector. On the other side, if we go by the procedure, the state government on its own cannot alone set up community radio stations. It required the permission of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to get license to setup and start broadcasting from these smaller radio stations. Under the rules, it is pre-requisite that the state needs to apply for license from the ministry which was already done three years back.

However with the lack of Centre-state government coordination and lack of regular follow up, the application is pending with the ministry since November 7, 2016. Due to this radio stations are yet to start in Odisha and Naveen has till now failed to come forward with his own Mann ki Baat. It has also been speculated that the grant of license is delayed due to some political reasons. The sole objective of the community radio stations were to convey the message of Naveen Patnaik to the rural public and connect the CM directly with the people of Odisha living in different corners of the state.

The Mann Ki Baat of Narendra Modi started on Akashvani after he became the Prime Minister of India. Keeping in light the popularity the PM’s Mann Ki Baat has garnered it seems logical for the BJP government at Centre to discourage any other such massive parallel shows on the same format which has the virtue of connecting the political top brass of the state with the electorate.

When the announcement of the Naveen’s Mann Ki Baat was made, the state leadership of the BJD was quite unhappy with this and termed it as a publicity stunt of the BJD supreme. The former Vice Chancellor of Orissa University of Agriculture Technology (OUAT) Surendra Nath Pasupalak had taken the initiative to start the radio station through the KVKs under their jurisdiction. Meanwhile the former VC has retired and no other recruitment of any technical qualified persons or consultants has not taken place yet. Due to this the whole plan has suffered a setback. As there is no remarkable progress in this scheme, the implementation of the ambitious plan of Naveen Patnaik seems a Herculean task as of now.

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