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Brave New World - Propagating radio waves where there are no roads
Even as man speaks of impending doom due to unchecked technological advances, there are still places which are making new beginnings putting the very same technology to good use. This is the story of one such place.

Few years back, I had the opportunity to visit Chakia Chapori , a small idyllic island-village located in the heart of the river Brahmaputra, to monitor some of the narrowcasting sessions organised by Brahmaputra Community Radio Station (BCRS), which is unique in that it targets 5 different communities.

A century and a half ago, when the British East India Company established the Assam Teas Association based in Dibrugarh, it recruited people from all over north India. This led to the first phase of migration to Chapori Island, situated at a distance of 1.5 km from the mainland. Today three communities reside here: Bhojpuri, Bodo and Mising. Their livelihood is completely dependent on agriculture and livestock.

During the 1950s – an earthquake isolated Chapori village completely from the mainland, making it a place difficult to develop. Seventy-two years later Chapori still has no electricity, no educational system or healthcare centres. The only mode of communication to the island-village is by private mechanized boats which charge a minimum of Rs 200 per trip. Though the Indian government counts Chapori as a part of its constitutional area, it has however not been able to facilitate even a viable transport system to the Island.

In 1990 a few volunteers made it their mission to support the Island communities. A decade later, functioning as the Centre for North Studies and Policy Research (C-NES), a registered organization, they have brought about many positive changes.

C-NES, as it is popularly known, started its work by introducing the Boat Clinic –AKHA. It is also responsible for establishing the region’s first primary educational system and is currently focusing its attention on the community radio project as a voice for voiceless. Today the new Community Radio Station (CRS) has established its base near Maijan Borsaikia Village, 2 km from the banks of the Brahmaputra. It is supported by the Unicef with Ideosync as Technical Support Agency (TSA), and functions under the banner of BRAHMAPUTRA COMMUNITY RADIO STATION-Waves of Lives. The CRS is unique in that it represents 5 communities. The thematic programme broadcast aims to create awareness about important issues among the 5 communities that it targets. BCRS has shown great innovation capabilities by designing various interactive modular radio formats to maximize community participation. It was greatly appreciated for its role in the rescue mission on the flooded Brahmaputra through its phone-out programming recently, and is now stepping onto the web platform with podcasting to increase its reach. Click on the link below for a sample of its podcast.

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