Amid the nationwide lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak, an announcer at a Guwahati-based community radio centre has singlehandedly run his centre for 333 hours.
Manoj Kumar Deka, announcer at Jnan Taranga community radio (90.4 FM) continued his work amid the lockdown period from April 1 to May 7 before he was relieved by another announcer.
“I actually did not realize in the beginning. I quite enjoy doing my job. Then, the lockdown started and it was entirely on me (to run the show). And that’s how it began – 9am to 6pm for these days – total 333 hours,” Deka told The News Mill.
Jnan Taranga (90.4 FM), a community radio station (CRS) run by the Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University (KKHSOU) in Guwahati, started to broadcast programmes from 2010, making it one of the first of such service in the entire Northeast.
There are around 15 people involved with the centre including the technical people.
More than half of the programmes broadcast by this radio are based on community issues. The morning programme starts from 9 am to 1 pm which caters to the needs of the youth. After that, from 1 pm to 2 pm, they run recorded programmes on various educational topics. Then 2 pm to 8 pm, the programme is dedicated to the general public where wide variety of topics are discussed and also music is played.
“I would be present at the centre at least 30 minutes before 9 in the morning and run the programme throughout the day and off to home by 6 pm. But that’s not the end. I need to re-look at the programmes I did throughout the day and prepare for the next day’s work. So, I could go to sleep only by 2 am. This has been my routine. But I enjoyed the responsibility. Finally, on May 7, I was relieved by another announcer,” the 43-year-old announcer said.
He carries lunch and other snacks with him for the day at the centre. “Because of the lockdown, no one was around and no food was available. During the breaks…I would play songs and would eat my meals,” he said.
The service covers an area of 15 km radius. Apart from Assamese, the other languages are Bodo, Mising and Karbi among others.
“There are interactive programmes where the listeners call us for some information related to lockdown and relaxation which they may not able to find in any other means. Most of the listeners are from financially poor background and are illiterate and hence, to get the correct information is very difficult. They are very often misled by fake news and rumours which I believe are as dangerous as COVID-19,” Deka reckoned.
For such listeners, the centre has more than an hour. An average of 10 people call the centre every day.
“I let them share their experiences and I try to make them feel comfortable. That’s how they feel welcomed and I try to clear their confusions,” he added.
Deka said among others people like fish vendors and auto rickshaw drivers call him frequently. “It’s very interesting. Sometimes, they would call me to enquire how I am doing. I feel very connected and it’s vice versa,” Deka added.
Deka recalled an incident when a listener called him to ask if drinking alcohol would kill coronavirus. “There were rumours going on social media that alcohol kills the virus. On the basis of that call, I made a promo to make the listeners aware of this kind of fake news,” he said.