Friday, February 18, 2011

Touching rural lives through AIR

Dr. M.S. Vijaya Haran, Station Director, All India Radio (AIR), Mysore, has been serving Akashvani for the past 37 years. After completing PU in Kolar, she obtained BA Honours in Kannada and MA in Kannada from Bangalore University.
Born in Kolar district in 1952, Dr. Vijaya joined Akashvani in 1974 as an announcer at Bhadravathi Station. After eight years of service, she became a Programme Executive and served at Gulbarga, Mysore, Bhadravathi, Hassan and Mangalore Stations.
Working as Assistant Director in Mysore Station, she rose to the post of Station Director at Hassan. Since 2005, she has been serving as Station Director in Mysore Akashvani. A Ph.D degree holder from the Mysore University (1998), she is also the author of 'Aaloka,' a collection of articles on literary criticism, published by Samvahana. Dr. Vijaya spoke to about her journey in AIR and how this media has touched the lives of millions of listeners including her own. Excerpts:

Your entire career, you have been continuously serving AIR. How has your journey been so far?
Dr. Vijaya: I have been listening to AIR since I was a little girl. Once I auditioned for a drama for AIR and got selected. Joining AIR was like a dream job for me. I thought we needed some special qualification. However, taking the advice of elders, I applied for an announcer's job and my journey with AIR began. I took the UPSC exam for programme executives in AIR and qualified for official grade. From then on, I worked at various Stations across the State.
It has, however, been very challenging. We should know how to act when some important news comes in and know how to assign priority. Also, like other media, we cannot give our own statement or comments on people and institutions. In such cases, we should conduct interactions by involving authorities and public and broadcast their views to tell people what is right or wrong.
Human resource management, programme management and relation with public are the key factors. But it is not difficult if you love your job and I can confidently say that I have 100% job satisfaction.

It was a common notion that after the advent of TV and later the private FM channels, AIR would have fewer listeners. Do you think it is true?
Dr. Vijaya: Though some people thought AIR may close after the arrival of TV, it is not really true. Urban listening may have got affected but think of our rural mass which is the majority. They either don't have TV sets and even if they do, there is no power. This is when AIR comes to their aid. They even take the transistors to their farms and call us from there.
Also, people do ask us about how we compete with other private FM channels. But AIR is not just limited to entertainment and there is no question of competing. AIR is like a big University. It includes programmes for farmers, literary, rural, science, music, education, children-related, news and infotainment through entertainment.
Earlier, communication was just one-way. Radio would broadcast and you had to listen. Now it is two-way as there are participatory programmes and public can interact with AIR through phone-in shows. AIR has become for, of and by the listeners.
How powerful is Akashvani as a means of mass communication?
Dr. Vijaya: There have been many occasions in the past when people would call AIR to clarify and check the authenticity of news which was being broadcast on TV.
When Veerappan abducted Dr. Rajkumar, no one could reach him. But the radio station did. We used radio as a medium to communicate with Rajkumar. Through radio his family informed about the medicines he had to take. And the public were relieved when they heard his voice through radio. Same with the wildlife photographers Krupakar and Senani; we broadcast their experience also. We were particular to tell the public that they were fine and need not panic. Even when tsunami hit, news was aired all over the country within no time. That is the power of Akashvani. You can say that wherever the sun's rays reach, AIR will reach there.

Being a woman, has it been difficult to handle such a big responsibility?
Dr. Vijaya: Personally I have enjoyed working here. If you know man-management and keep a balance, then it may not be a problem. Once people know your capacity and efficiency, they automatically start respecting you. You should be impartial in your judgement and treatment to others. Analysis, patience and impartial judgement are the   keys to management.
One challenge here is to constantly provide people with new infotainment programmes and see to it that they don't lose interest in our programmes. People had a belief that programmes for rural mass and farmers were least listened to but Mysore AIR has proved this wrong as many listen to these programmes with great interest.
People get to know the plight of farmers through such shows.  Also in any work, planning and scheduling are very important.

Which is that one programme which has had a huge impact on people?
Dr. Vijaya: Based on popularity, it is 'Hatti Harate' and 'En Samachara.' But in terms of impact, it will be 'Kisan Vani' and 'Navilugari.' One good example for this is 'Banuli Krishikara Company' started in 2006 which is the brainchild of Banuli Krishi Belagu programme of Mysore AIR. The company now has over 500 farmers and allows the farmers' products to be directly sold to consumers. The consumers can even become shareholders of the company.
AIR Mysore's name has been recommended to International Radio Asia Pacific Broadcasting Conference to be held in Delhi from Feb. 21 to 23, for our work on rural programmes and I will be representing Karnataka in it. AIR Mysore has also bagged a National award for a programme on Soliga tribes, entitled 'Dodda Sampige.' The Akashvani Sahitya Sammelana and Krushi Sadhana Samavesha conducted by Mysore AIR have been the first of its kind in India.

And the programme which has had a personal impact on you…
Dr. Vijaya: For me it is 'Chintana.' The programme covers various topics which help shape the personality of a human being and it has made a huge impact on me.

Any one memorable incident…
Dr. Vijaya: Once I had been on a visit to a village and told the officials not to tell the villagers who I was since I wanted to know what people felt about programmes on AIR.
We saw a blind farmer listening to radio in his farm. When I spoke to him, without any introduction, he recognised my voice as that of 'Hatti Harate Hanumakka.' He knew the Stations where I had worked and that I was the Station Director in AIR. When asked how he knew, he told us his story.
His brothers had left him with dry land since he was blind. When he was on the verge of committing suicide, he listened to 'Raitarige Salahe' programme about how to cultivate dry land. He contacted officials and started cultivation. Such stories are very touching and give us a sense of satisfaction. It is not enough if we just broadcast programmes, it should also have a personal touch. It should have an impact on people's life. Only then what we do is worthwhile.

Dr. Vijaya's husband Dr. B.S. Pranathartiharan is a retired Kannada lecturer from the Commissionerate of Collegiate Education and is the Founder-Director of Samudaya Adhyayana Kendra in city. Her daughter Sharvani Haran, who worked as a software engineer in Infosys, has translated DVG's 'Mankuthimmana Kagga' to English. Sharvani and her husband are presently residing in California, US.
(Published in Star Of Mysore dated Feb.16)


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