The Centre has asked all the community radio stations in India to air the 100th episode of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat speech live on Sunday and send evidence of the broadcast to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, The Wire reported on Tuesday.
The Mann ki Baat programme was started on October 3, 2014. The 30-minute show, through which the prime minister interacts with the citizens, is aired on All India Radio on the last Sunday of every month.
The centenary episode of the programme will air on April 30.
In view of the centenary episode, the I&B ministry wrote a letter on Monday, stating: “Community radio stations are advised to send a one-minute audio clip of the broadcast consisting of 25 seconds of the initial portion broadcast and 25 seconds of [the] last portion of broadcast appending the name of the community radio station, immediately after completion of the broadcast. The audio clip may be sent through a link which shall be shared shortly.”
There are currently 395 community radio stations in India. They are expected to send a photograph of celebrations of the 100th edition of Mann Ki Baat, reported The Wire. Moreover, the ministry has asked for “a photo of the community listening to the broadcast as a memoir”, according to the news portal.
On Tuesday, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that Modi’s public relation machinery was “working overtime” for the 100th episode of his radio address but there is “Maun ki Baat” (silence) on issues related to businessman Gautam Adani, China and the revelations made by former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has organised a national conclave in Delhi on Wednesday to mark the occasion, while the Central government will release Rs 100 coins on Sunday.
According to the I&B ministry, the 100th edition of the programme would be a “historic event”.
But community radio operators have objected to the ministry’s directive to broadcast the programme live on Sunday.
“On a weekend, people have already made their plans,” an unidentified radio operator told The Wire. “There are very few listeners tuned in anyway. But this time, because it is compulsory, we will have to air it. Otherwise we rarely air these episodes.”
Ram Prasad from Radio Dhimsa in Odisha’s Koraput district said the community station has never received such an order to compulsorily air the show.
“We have shows on health, education, livelihood support, etc and since the slots are already prepared, Mann ki Baat could not be aired [previously],” he added. “We will discuss it [the I&B ministry’s letter] with the management and decide.”
Vinod Pavarala, a professor of communication at the University of Hyderabad and UNESCO Chair on community media, said the I&B ministry’s letter reduces community radio stations to “last mile carriers of government propaganda”, The Wire reported.
“If private radio was dictated to, they too would fall in line,” Pavarala added.
An unidentified member of the Community Radio Association told the news website that radio stations broadcast Mann ki Baat programme only because of the goodwill enjoyed by some officials of the I&B ministry.