Tuning Out of Community Reach

What began enthusiastically eleven years back came to a nought on a cold December afternoon in 2021 and  SCOTRWA's efforts to obtain a license for a community radio station were shelved for good. The community radio licensing process proved to be time consuming, expensive and frustrating as this letter to the PMO elucidates. It is totally opposite of the spirit of community radio. Supreme Court ruling of 1995 asserts that radio waves/ frequencies are public property. Community radio aspirants need to remember that there is a good chance of getting lost in the labyrinth of paperwork,  leg work and screening committee procedures. 

 Shri. Narendra Modi, 

Prime Minister of India,

Prime Minister's Office; South Block,

New Delhi, 110011.   

                                                                                                            Hyderabad, 10th February, 2022



                        Sub: Urgent Need for Radical Administrative Reforms

I.                   Since there is no responsive national body to which the citizens can send their suggestions for administrative reforms, I am forced to disturb you to seek your attention. I want to bring to your attention the latest and specific instance of systemic failure of administrative procedures in time-bound decision-making, despite your desire and attempts towards more 'ease of doing business' with the Administration.

Mechanisms of checks and balances are envisaged in our Constitution. Since one cannot depend upon the same Administration to reform itself, there may be three democratic approaches possible for your consideration : i) Any effective reform might have to be backed by an Ordinance or a legislative measure in order to make the Administration to stand the test of respect for the ‘ease of living’ of their real employers. Or ii) Rigorous implementation of the Citizens Charter in each department and in each Board, Directorate or Corporation and to make the Charter justiciable. Or iii) Hire eminent managers and auditors from among the public to evaluate the performance of each officer in each scheme, programme or project or mission and see that the career orientation of the officer depends on the evaluation. Or iv) to carry out obligatory Social Audit by the stakeholders, academicians and experts and allow them to make it public.

The present case is being illustrated to you, not to seek any personal relief, nor to find fault with any particular officer, but only to prove that it is imperative that the philosophy and system of administering has to change so as become more efficient and performing.

II.                The following is the latest instance:

In 2009, if not earlier, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting or the Minister concerned himself has announced the opening up of the FM Radio channel to the public and called for proposals from NGOs, CSOs and Educational institutions to get permission to establish Community Radio Stations. On 10-11-2010 an application in 7 copies is filed by the Standing Committee of Tarnaka Resident Welfare Associations (SCOTRWA) to the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Finally, the reply letter as a decision closing the matter dated the 20th December 2021 is communicated to us during the Prashasan Saptah on 25th December which is a Good Governance Day. What happened during these 11 years is a tragic story of tremendous wastage of human energies, efforts, time and tax-payer’s money. And it is an avoidable national loss.

During this long period, we have accumulated a file of more than 200 pages of correspondence and reports. SCOTRWA has formed 20 to 30 committees and groups of around a hundred enthusiastic volunteers, including subject experts. They might have participated in discussions for about a thousand man-hours while spending their own money on commutation. Several pamphlets are printed. The volunteers are trained to prepare the subject materials for broadcasting. Newspapers wrote and television channels interviewed the organisers and about 35 newspaper-cuttings are lying with us. The journalists highlighted the unique nature of this project in which an urban community would use this radio station to facilitate the 'ease of living' of its residents, operating as a channel of communication and information to solve the problems of every day. The Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd. was consulted and it made 2 trips from Bengaluru to Hyderabad to identify the suitable location as well as for cost estimates. An office place to set up the studio imminently was hired for a couple of years. It was all because we have received a Letter of Intent from the Department. A Survey was carried out across the surrounding area of 10 km. There were three interactions with the Screening Committee of high officials. There were 2 visits of the SCOTRWA representatives to the concerned officials. Once, we were asked to rectify the coordinates of the wavelengths. The desk officer had once informed that the entire file was missing and a fresh set of documents re-inserted in the file. It was also told some other time, as friendly advice that the file was outdated and it would be better to start all over again with a new name of the applicant, which was done in 2019. From Room no.116 in Shastri Bhawan, a person from a Facilitation Centre made a few courtesy telephone calls, now and then, to enquire from us about the status of the file, which fact used to make us wonder about the real purpose of the call. A few regional seminars are held in some cities with the stakeholders in which higher officials from ND have been participating. The latest online meeting in which our representative participated took place on December 21, the month in which we have received the letter of rejection. Financial assistance to some NGOs was vaguely mentioned but never clarified. We presumed that it would be another procedure to be launched, still at a later stage. Occasionally, whenever we came across other applicants from other states, some said that they engaged consultants to facilitate the procedures.   

Several Union Ministers who came across this project wrote letters of support to the Ministry concerned appreciating the mission of the Radio: Mr. Kapil Sibal, Mr. Prakash Javadekar, Mr. Jaipal Reddy, Mr. Ravi Shanker Prasad, Mr. Dattatreya, etc.    Thus, this long period of indecision and waiting for action is too much and unnatural to any human endeavour, other than to a government body. The rejection in our case came in fact as a relief to us, since we are not anymore in a position to raise funds from the public.

III.             Previously, I had another experience in 2000, where it took 2 or 3 years of correspondence, consisting of 30 to 40 letters from and to SCOTRWA to get a registration number (R.N.I.) to our 'Tarnaka Times' from the Registrar of Newspapers belonging to the Information & Broadcasting department. In a similar situation and need, an active citizen took the trouble of making a trip to New Delhi and stayed in AP Bhawan in Ashoka Road, where he hired a 'consultant' and got the certificate of registration Number delivered in Hyderabad by post within 15 days. I am still keeping all the documents of the previous case as well as that of the latest one for verification, while enclosing a few copies to establish the authenticity of the latest issue.

We, therefore, urge you, being our much-esteemed Prime Minister to venture to implement concretely your much acclaimed mission of 'Less Government and More Governance' by radical administrative reforms, during your tenure. It would be a landmark in the history of modernising India.

With my best regards,

                                                               Rao V.B.J. Chelikani,          

                                                               A former associate of UNESCO, Paris.

From the archives 

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