How India’s only radio station for fishermen is changing lives every day


Yesedimar, a fisherman living on Pambam Island in Tamil Nadu, located between peninsular India and Sri Lanka, was alarmed on a summer day to discover that his favorite radio show was missing.

Intrigued and somewhat clueless, unsure whether the government had taken “Kadal Osai FM 90.4” off the air due to Covid-19 or if there was some other reason for his disappearance, the 60-year-old decided to wear complaint about the missing radio show. at the nearby police station.

Fortunately, before he could act on his complaint, the head of the Gayathri Usman radio station came to Chinnapalam, the small hamlet of Pamban where Yedimar lived, for a job.

“Worriedly, Yedimar asked me why we had closed our doors. He failed to listen to weather updates and marine anecdotes. Once I informed him that we would be back in service in three days, his face lit up with joy, ”Gayathri said. The best India.

This is one of the many instances where the local people of Pamban have shown so much love and support for a radio station which is the first and only FM channel in India by and for the fishing community. With the exception of Gayathri, the other 12 station employees are either part-time fishermen themselves or belong to fishing families.

The canal is known for its impact on the land which has benefited the local community – whether students, housewives or fishermen. It also serves as a direct link between government and the community to quickly resolve local issues.

Called “Kadal Osai” (The Sound of the Sea), the radio station was started by Armstrong Fernando, himself a fisherman, in 2016.

Start a radio station

Pamban Island, located off the east coast of Tamil Nadu, is a short walk from Sri Lanka. The island has a population of around one lakh and almost 80% of the inhabitants make a living from fishing.

Due to government rules related to the island’s proximity to an international border, fishermen in Pamban are only allowed to stay at sea for 24 hours at a time. They survive on the fish they can harvest during this time. Sometimes collecting fish is worth lakhs, but during high tides or storms they have to go without any income for days.

Fernando, who was familiar with the problems faced by fishermen, established the Nesakarangal Charitable Trust in 2010 to support families whose members have died in marine accidents, helping them find employment or financial assistance from the government.

Likewise, the radio station was launched to help the community.

“The Trust had been operating successfully for five years when I came across Pasumai FM in Dindigul, a community radio station that focuses on empowering farmers. So I wanted to organize a similar program exclusively for fishermen. I felt like my fellow fishermen on Pamban Island were missing out on a lot due to the lack of exposure. Radio is a powerful communication tool that can quickly disseminate useful information and entertain fishermen at sea, ”said Fernando. The best India.

Introduced to Gayathri by a mutual friend, Fernando invited her to attend radio workshops in Pamban in 2018. She trained the staff, who had no knowledge and no knowledge of running a community radio station.

She fell in love with the island at the end of the training period and decided to use her skills to make an impact there. Interestingly, the now popular radio station was once ridiculed by locals. “I first encountered resistance from the locals because I was a foreigner and it took me a month to gain their trust. Now we occasionally receive fish specialties as a thank you from them, ”she said.

Overview of station operation

The 24 × 7 radio station begins with weather updates. These are useful to the community that once easily predicted the weather. Due to climate change, it has become increasingly difficult to interpret and identify wind regimes, water level and potential fishing areas.

The updates are followed by the “Kadal Osai Thandora” segment, where the jockey announces fish and diesel tariffs, availability of power supply and other useful news for locals.

Vacancies in the Indian Navy and Coast Guard are also being advertised.

Advertising

The next segment is very popular as listeners, experts, RJs and students discuss many topics. The three-hour show also features quizzes and trivia about Pamban and its history.

“We invite seasoned fishermen to talk about topics such as creating alternative livelihoods and limiting spending. Success stories motivate the community to innovate and embrace different ways to earn more. In between, they sing, read poetry or share lesser-known facts about fishing to lighten the mood, ”says Lenin, an RJ at the station.

Then, in the segment “Kutti Chutties”, the children discuss their school life and their dreams.

To further support the children, the radio organizes fishing-related lessons and advertises scholarships.

“Samudhiram Pazhagu” (Learn About Sea / Ocean) is a powerful and interactive segment on marine conservation. Experts are invited to participate. For example, specialists from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), a leading fisheries research organization, organized a session on saving olive ridley turtles.

“Fishermen often return captured turtles in their nets for consumption. So the experts explained to them that letting the turtles stay in the water would help control the jellyfish while they were feeding on them. After the discussion, fishermen sent us videos of them releasing the turtles. It was so heartwarming to see this, ”Lenin said.

Experts from the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai are also frequent guests. They discuss safe fishing practices and the preservation of coral reefs.

Likewise, other experts talk about plastic pollution, abstaining from open defecation and sustainable fish-catching practices.

Another notable segment relates to the use of life jackets and boat maintenance to prevent fatalities in severe storms. Daily announcements are made on how to stay alive in dangerous conditions.

Housewives and other women enjoy listening to discussions about cage fishing, making crafts from seashells, and growing seaweed. This encourages them to become financially independent.

Useful for the community

RJs often go out into the field to get criticism and comments from their listeners and incorporate their suggestions. The response from people has been phenomenal, say the RJs.

“Community members are now demanding that we create programs to solve specific problems and that makes me happy. Even though I have to put in a large amount of money every month to make the radio work, it gives me immense satisfaction to see the livelihoods improve, ”said Fernando.

Wilson Fernando, a local who has worked in the fishing industry for 35 years, said the radio station had been “very useful to the community.”

“In addition to playing music, the radio program also gives us vital information on cyclone formations, weather updates and tells us about loans and grants for fishermen. There are segments specially designed for children and women that cover general knowledge topics. Sometimes they also run quizzes or contests that keep us engaged, ”he added.

From imparting knowledge about generating alternative livelihoods to raising awareness about marine conservation to the latest advocacy on social distancing, Kadal Osai FM 90.4 is a special channel that has a significant impact on the local people of the island of Pamban with its solutions and interactions specific to the region. with the locals.

All images are from Kadal Osai FM 90.4

Edited by Nishi Malhotra


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