NORTH LAKHIMPUR, July 29 - The recent flood relief operation by The Assam Tribune Group and the Assam Tribune Employees’ Union (ATEU) in Lakhimpur will be remembered for long as it would open new vistas for radio broadcasting handling disaster management. Among the 34 relief materials distributed by The Assam Tribune Group and ATEU on July 26 in flood ravaged Aamtola region of Lakhimpur, there was a transistor radio set, meant for every family that received the aid.
As announced before the flood victims at the relief distribution camp in Mazgaon, Aamtola on that day by the ATEU president Siba Prasad Deka, the radio sets were meant for providing updates to marooned people when other means of communication like television, internet and mobile phone enabled services were hit by power disruption amidst natural disasters like the flood. This has been acknowledged globally that radio can be the best tool for communications due to its all-pervading presence and its freedom from power failure, which normally affects all communication channels during a natural disaster or in manmade catastrophes. This service is now provided in rural Lakhimpur which has been cut off from electric power since the breach of the Ranganadi embankment in Jainpur on July 9. This is happening in a time when disaster management communication is still lacking in India.
In India, radio is still the most reached broadcasting service covering 110 million individuals. It is well below the penetration of television among 475 million individuals in the country, but dependence on electricity makes the latter useless at the time of natural disasters or any emergencies giving an edge to the radio. The National Broadcaster, All India Radio (AIR) is one of the largest broadcasting organizations in the world in terms of the number of languages of broadcast, the spectrum of socio-economic and cultural diversity it serves. With 420 stations spread across the country, the AIR is reaching nearly 92% of the country's area and 99.19 % of the total population. It broadcasts programming in 23 languages and 146 dialects which also includes bulletins on weather forecast and programmes on rural sector. Besides many FM radio services are coming up to extend services in the country.
For natural disasters like flood, radio could be the only medium to reach out to the trapped, marooned or affected people by the concerned state agencies amidst power cuts. This is a cost effective and easy way to coordinate disaster management by various agencies and also be useful for prior warning and early evacuation. It may be recalled that during the 2004 tsunami in Chennai, it was the radio service that paved the way of early relief measures by the police where the television channels could air 'live' visuals eight hours after the disaster.
In Lakhimpur district, any radio set could access AIR broadcastings from its Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Jorhat, Itanagar and Mukokchung stations in FM, MW and SW frequencies. The concerned authorities can use the services from these radio stations to reach out to victims of natural disasters. So far the disaster management authorities have done little in terms of using radio for their use in the state. The exemplary act by the Assam Tribune Group and ATEU could pave the way of new application of radio service in managing flood and other natural calamities affecting the masses located in remote areas without electricity.