Popular radio station started by Raghav shut down for not possessing an operating license.
Hundreds want Bihar man's radio station revived
By Imran Khan, Indo-Asian News Service
Patna, March 28 (IANS)
Hundreds of people in rural Bihar have rallied in support of a poor and illiterate man whose hugely popular radio station was shut down for not possessing an operating licence.
The people, ranging from affluent farmers and contractors to middle class families and the poor in and around Vaishali district, are offering financial support to Raghav Mahto to restart his station that was closed down by the authorities Sunday.
Mahto's station, Radio Raghav FM Mansoorpur 1 channel, was beaming popular programmes from Mansoorpur village in Vaishali for the past three years.
In a rare show of unity, locals decided to collect money to revive Radio Raghav, as it is popularly known.
"We will collect money from neighbouring villages also," said Manohar Prasad Singh, a resident of Mansoorpur.
"A large number of people have approached me and offered financial help to restart the radio station," Mahto told IANS over telephone.
The spontaneous sympathy was evident Monday when hundreds who loved to tune in to Radio Raghav gathered in Mansoorpur village for a protest meeting.
Affluent people like Damodar Singh announced a contribution of Rs.5,000. Others vowed to raise more funds for the station's revival. According to officials, the radio license could annually cost over Rs.400,000.
The 20-something Mahto was forced by officials to sign a bond that he would not go back on air again.
"My hope lies with the peoples' support who have urged the district administration to help me to restart the station before the Vaishali festival on April 12," Mahto said.
Angry residents of Vaishali district have also planned a signature campaign and want President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to intervene.
Vaishali district magistrate Sanjeev Hans had said Monday that the station was closed down for violating the Indian Telegraphs Act. A formal police complaint was lodged against Mahto and the radio equipment seized by a three-member team of the communications and IT ministry at the village on Sunday.
The trouble for Raghav Radio started early this month when the district administration directed officials to submit a report on the radio station.
The government sought a report on it after the story of Mahto's successful radio station was splashed in the national and international media.
The communications ministry sought information on the station and directed that action be taken if it was found to be running without a licence.
Mahto had admitted to IANS that he was not aware that a licence was required to start till he was informed last month that it was illegal to run a private radio station.
Mahto, who repairs electronic goods at Gudri Bazar near Mansoorpur, had said then that he did not have money for a licence fee. "I don't even have the money for medical treatment of my father who is suffering from cancer."
For people residing in and around Mansoorpur village, Mahto is a hero. He is more popular than the local legislator and MP and people prefer Radio Raghav to the national channels.
The station was running like a community radio service providing local news and opinion in the local dialect as well as entertainment for villages spread in Muzaffarpur, Vaishali and Saran districts.
It also used to air Hindi songs and news, programmes on AIDS awareness, polio eradication, on literacy initiatives and news about missing people as well as local functions and festivals -- all free of cost.
Mahto, who loves tinkering with old equipment, began the service in 2003.