A college in Darjeeling hills has come up with student and faculty teams reaching out to rural youth with higher education opportunities. In a rare case of hands-on radio production by any college in Bengal and the entire 8 states of northeast India, 80-year-old Salesian College, Sonada (SCS), situated in Gorabari village on National Highway 55 at an altitude of 6,500 feet above sea level, boasts of running a community radio station for 12 hours each day.
“Here at Radio Salesian we offer students, faculty, and local people opportunity to create their own programmes, both social and academic, intellectual and entertaining, so that the accumulated knowledge trickles down to the semi-literate rural masses of the tea gardens,” says Principal Dr George Thadathil.
One of the first year Journalism & Mass Communication students, Dikshit Tamang, who got himself trained as a radio journalist during a two-month break awaiting college admission, hosts a two-hour weekly radio show entitled Yuva Awaaz (Youth Voice). From the time he joined SCS, he hosts and packages his own weekly show with help available on campus.
Seizing the opportunity for radio ministry a group of three Nepali students of Darjeeling diocese who attended a three-day hands-on media workshop at Salesian College last January create their own youth segment on Tamang’s show.
I caught up with Brothers Silash Lepcha, Alphonse Ghimiray and Binai Chettri on a Saturday morning at the Radio Salesian studio while they were recording their segment entitled Prerak Prasanga — Inspirational / Motivational Talk — a 15-minute segment within Yuva Awaaz. They were narrating the Biblical story of young lad David who killed the mighty Philistine warrior Goliath with only a slingshot. In the process, the young students encourage young people to have self-confidence, believe in God’s help and in oneself.
“We see young people lacking self-confidence and belief in themselves,” says team leader Silash who goes to Upper Balasun Youth Centre each Sunday.
His colleague Alphonse Ghimiray who goes to Mamring Youth Centre is of the opinion that “we need to engage rural youth in radio programming, so that their voice too could be heard.”
Binai Chettri, who goes to Rangmuk Youth Centre, laments saying, “college students and young people do not exploit the opportunities for radio ministry we have in the college.”
This year for June-July admission season in the college, each of the 12 departments has prepared their radio talk shows highlighting the advantages of pursuing studies in the particular department.
“Besides being a sort of career guidance, each half-hour programme throws light on the 3-year course content as well as job and higher education opportunities,” says Assistant Professor Bedika Rai, Head of the English department.
Assistant Professor Privat Giri of the Mass Communication department waxes eloquent on the advantages of pursuing a B.A. Honours degree at Salesian College which boasts of a professional radio station. The college has plans to start an online television broadcast station shortly.
Meanwhile, the Head of the Computer Science Department, Assistant Prof. Bryan Kerr and Head of Sociology, Assistant Prof. Sumina Chettri, have been hosting their weekend show entitled Unplugged and Stories Behind Music — the popular and only English language programme running since December 2016.
The Government of India had issued guidelines in 2003 for educational institutions to set up campus radios, and Anna University in Tamil Nadu was the first to start one in February 2004. Today there are over 100 campus radios in the country, but the actual number could be higher since there are no details about these in the northeast beyond Guwahati.
Campus Radio (also known as college radio, University radio or student radio) is a type of radio station that is run by the students of a college, University or other educational institution. Programming may be exclusively by students, or may include programmers from the wider community in which the radio station is based.
Sometimes campus radio stations are operated for the purpose of training professional radio personnel, sometimes with the aim of broadcasting educational programmes, while other radio stations exist to provide an alternative to commercial broadcasting or government broadcasters.
The campus radio station could cost about Rs 15 lakh and typically operates out of a room that can seat three to four people and the attendant equipment. Its range is 8-10 km and can even go up to 15 km.