Open Letter to PM for harnessing power of media for the student community

Guest Column: Prof K G Suresh, Founder Dean, School of Modern Media, seeks inter-ministerial Special Task Force to help students preparing for board & entrance exams with Akashvani and community radio

e4m by K G Suresh
Updated: Apr 9, 2020 2:59 PM
K G Suresh

Dear Prime Minister Sir,

The world is passing is through an unprecedented crisis and we in India too are engaged in a war on Corona. Both Central and State Governments have taken several steps to alleviate the sufferings of the common man in the wake of the lockdown. The Ministry of Human Resource Development and organisations such as the UGC have issued several guidelines to the universities and other educational institutions to provide relief to the students who are facing an uncertain future.

Many institutions, particularly related to higher education, as also private schools have adopted online teaching technologies in a big way to reach out to the beleaguered student community. However, students in the rural and interior areas, which comprise a sizeable part of the country, remain deprived of these facilities. This is affecting the education of lakhs of youngsters, who are the future of the nation.

It may be recalled that after the outbreak and spread of Ebola in the West African country of Sierra Leone in 2014, over one million school going kids were out of class for several months. Subsequently, the Sierre Leone Government partnered with UNICEF and many other voluntary developmental organisations to launch a radio education programme for school going kids. The programmes were run on 41 Government radio stations, as also the country’s state owned TV channel.

Instructors created hour-long teaching sessions for younger children – who listen in the morning – and for older students, who would tune in later in the day. According to UNICEF, the lessons became increasingly popular – from less than 20 per cent participation initially to 70 per cent coverage at its peak.

Similarly, Radio Mewat, a community radio station operating from the backward Mewat district of Haryana, too is engaged in imparting subject specific classes, which has resulted in improved performance in schools. Many other community radio stations too are engaged in similar exercise. Unfortunately, we have very few community radio stations and they have a limited reach.

Moreover, with the lockdown impacting educational institutions, many radio stations including Apna Radio 96.9 run by the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication located in the Corona affected South Delhi has been shut down whereas this is the time when they should be operating 24X7 for the benefit of the local populace.

It’s here that All India Radio can play a critical role in imparting subject specific education and information to the students at large.

Broadcast radio (AM) today reaches a staggering 99% of the Indian population, while FM radio reaches 65%. Unlike TV and print, radio is highly interactive, hyper-local in nature, and is free. Its portability enables one to listen to it even while working in the farms or fishing in the deep seas.

Many people prefer radio as the information provided is crisp and straightforward. Radio helps audiences focus and retains their attention for a longer duration as compared to TV where pictures and headlines distract the viewer. With radio remaining untouched by the menace of fake news so far, it also remains by far the most credible medium. What’s more, to reach out to the millennials, radio stations are today available on digital platforms as well.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister himself reaches out to millions of citizens every month through his hugely popular ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme. The importance he has given to the radio was evident from his interaction with Radio Jockeys following the lockdown.

In view of the above, it is humbly submitted that an inter-ministerial Special Task Force be set up with representatives from the Human Resources Development Ministry, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Telecom Ministry, Prasar Bharati and community radio stations to chalk out a strategy to reach out through Akashvani and community radio to the students who are preparing for their board and various entrance examinations in the coming days as the lockdown is expected to be lifted only in a phased manner over the next few months.

We, at the School of Media, UPES, Dehradun too are willing to extend all possible cooperation to the government in this regard for at stake is the future of our students and the country.

I am not only hopeful but also confident that you will proactively take up this issue in the larger interests of the student community with whom you have been regularly interacting and counselling on important issues such as Examination Stress.

Thanking you in anticipation

Warm Regards

Prof K G Suresh

Founder Dean, School of Modern Media, University of Petroleum & Energy Studies, Dehradun

Former Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communication

Former Senior Consulting Editor, Doordarshan News

Former Chief Political Correspondent, Press Trust of India

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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