The AIR station in Dibrugarh in Assam

Dibrugarh: The All India Radio (AIR) station in Dibrugarh, Assam, which was established to tackle the Chinese “wave” in India, especially for the villagers of Arunachal Pradesh, is facing closure threat because of severe manpower shortage as well as lack of technical advancement.

Incidentally, the radio station is celebrating its golden jubilee celebrations in February next year.

The condition of the radio station is so pathetic that at present, as per official records, more than one third of its staff strength is lying vacant, which in turn has crippled the day-to-day functioning of the station.

History has it that, although the Indo-China war ended in 1962, the Chinese were still interested in Arunachal Pradesh, for which they had established high-frequency transmitters across the international border known as the McMahon Line. The McMahon Line is currently the effective boundary between China and India, although its legal status is being disputed between the Indian and the Chinese government. Programmes aired by Chinese radio stations could be listened by villagers in the bordering areas of Arunachal Pradesh.

It was due to these reasons and to counter the ‘wave’ propaganda initiated by the Chinese government that the Centre had established the AIR station in Dibrugarh in 1969 with a 300-kw transmitter, which is one of the strongest in the country. In fact, there are only three other stations in India with this capacity or beyond. However, the station today is facing severe crunch in terms of manpower and technical advancement.

Rajesh Beldar, deputy director of the AIR station who is currently in charge of the station, informed EastMojo that at present 31 posts out of 86 are lying vacant.

Sources further informed EastMojo that many posts are being shifted from this station and created in other stations across the country. For instance, the Regional News Unit (RNU) of the station had four permanent posts – one editor, two assistant news editors and one correspondent – while two posts were shifted a long time ago. The remaining posts were shifted in 2015 – one to AIR, Silchar and one to DDK, Bhopal.

This has created such a problem that the existence of the RNU, which broadcasts daily bulletins in Assamese and also produces weekly news-based programmes, is at stake. The only staff member who is running the RNU with the help of a few casual staffers is working ‘on loan’ and it is only a matter of time that the RNU faces closure. Of the 14 posts of programme executives, there are only five at present and of the 14 transmission executives, there are only three. For several years, there is no station director and the daily affairs are being run by junior-level officers.

Funds are allegedly being curtailed to such an extent that programme executives are finding it tough to produce new programmes since they are not in a position to pay the singers or the musicians. Despite all odds, the station is trying to produce programmes as it is celebrating its golden jubilee. In fact, the station has plans to produce 3,000 programmes throughout the golden jubilee year which got underway on February 15 this year and will conclude on Febuary 15 next year.

Former employees of the station also lamented the current state of affairs of the station where they have put in some of their best years during service. It is up to the Centre and the state government now to ensure that the station does not continue to suffer.

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