In April, just weeks into the lockdown, Mandakini ki Aawaz – a community radio station in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district – had phones ringing off the hook. While some listeners were in a jubilant mood for having found a black stone near their home, others were terrified at the fact that it wasn’t there.
It turned out that a WhatsApp forward had prophesied that presence of a “magical black stone” meant that they would not get Covid-19, while the absence meant that they would get the dreaded disease. The station swung in to action broadcasting an interview with the director of the Uttarakhand Science Education and Research Centre who helped bust the fake news.
At a time when misinformation and quackery has taken over social media messaging, six community radio stations in Uttarakhand have come together under the banner of Umeed Network or Hope to provide relevant locally produced content that not just tackles fake news but also provides listeners with valuable insights. These range from information related to new quarantine rules, locally available food that can be nutritious and healthy, stress-busting techniques, educational programming and entertainment.
The network began in March and completed a 100 days on July 21. People’s Power Collective, a community communications specialist organisation, working in Uttarakhand since 2013 in CR, reached out to all the CR stations in the state, asking if they would like to work together, to support their respective communities all through this Covid-19 period. PPC founder Saritha Thomas, who helped set up Mandakini Ki Awaaz, said, “It was an open invitation to collaborate, to leverage each other’s strengths and maximise the impact of quality locally relevant content, on our communities.”
Within three days CR stations including Kumaon Vani, Radio Khushi, Hello Zindagee, Pantnagar Janvani and Mandakini ki Aawaz joined as collaborators. The network collectively reaches out to potentially 16,22,000 across 10 districts of Uttarakhand.
Working under severe constraints the network has been producing content, in Hindi, Garhwali and Kumaoni, that includes addressing community’s concerns and queries, interviews with medical experts, scientists and nutritionists. Among the issues that have been in focus are alcohol addiction, addressing high levels of stress and medical advice to communities that do not have access to reliable mobile networks and internet connectivity.

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