Cuttack: In the age of television, Internet and social media, radio still has a loyal fan base in India. Not only in the rural belts, radio jockeys from different private FM channels command a huge fan following even in urban India.
Radio has played a key role in promoting Odisha’s culture and heritage across the country. Since its inception, All India Radio (Akashvani-Cuttack) has been some major steps in highlighting the rich culture of Odisha and in doing so has set new milestones. Over the years, it has experimented with a wide variety of subjects revolving around culture and infotainment and has struck a chord with millions of people across the state.
If we go back to the history of broadcasting, the British government began the services in 1930. Lionel Fielden from England came to India to develop the broadcasting system.
On the eve of World War II, all AIR stations were asked to mount programmes that were aimed to explain the objectives of the Allied forces, the evils of Nazism and Fascism, encourage recruitment in armed forces and to project British supremacy by countering Axis propaganda. At this crucial juncture, Odia broadcasting started from AIR Calcutta. It was not an organised affair and the shows were primarily designed to cater to labourers in the tea gardens of Assam, Burma and Singapore.
Post Independence, the Union government decided to set up at least one radio station in the capital cities of every state. So, All India Radio started functioning in different parts of the country. The inception of a new radio station in Cuttack in 1948 was a dream-come-true moment. The station finally came into existence January 28, 1948, when people in the state for the first time heard Odia voice on radio. The first voice that resonated across the state was ‘Akashvani Cuttack’. Former Chief Minister Dr Harekrushna Mahatab played a significant role in launching a radio station at the state.
However, the pride of having a radio station of our own gradually fizzled out as we continued to lag other states in terms of quality of programmes. This phase carried on for almost two decades although radio by that time had become an important medium for promoting developmental work and to highlight the sentiments of locals and their issues. The stagnancy continued till Mrs Nandini Satpathy, the then Chief Minister of Odisha and former Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting took the initiative to improve of the broadcasting quality and standard in Odisha. In the Fifth Five Year Plan it was decided to increase the strength of transmitters at several stations for wider reach and coverage. This enabled AIR-Cuttack to exchange its programmes with other stations in India to consolidate solidarity of the country and national culture.
The radio station now boasts multiple wings that are engaged in producing programmes on women, children, youth, senior citizens, agriculture and infrastructure among others. Be it sports, healthcare hygiene or gitinatyas (poetic dramas) of old playwrights like Ganakabi Baishnab Pani and Gopal Dey, AIR-Cuttack has something for everyone in its basket.
Besides, the live commentary on annual Car Festival of Lord Jagannath at Puri is one of the most sought-after programmes aired by the Cuttack station. Listeners from far and away, from the comfort of their homes, can get a feel of the devotional ambience by listening to the commentary during Rath Yatra. In the 1960s, a host of programmes on agriculture and farming played a major role in giving a boost to green revolution and white revolution. So much so, that one of the programmes even gave a new identity to a particular variety of rice. That particular variety went on to be known as ‘Radio Rice’ which is extremely popular in south even today.
Starting operations from two thatched rooms and then shifting to the premises of Madhupur Kothi, Buxi Bazar, to finally establishing base on the swanky Cantonment Road, Akashvani Cuttack has travelled a long path catering its valuable service to the public keeping in mind Bahu Jana Sukhaya, Bahu Jana Hitaya Cha, an aphorism enunciated in the Rig Veda.
Eminent scholars, litterateurs and journalists used to be invited as guests to participate in programmes to give a facelift to the standard of broadcasting in Odia. Prominent among them were Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, Laxmidhar Sahoo, Baikuntanath Pattanaik, Mayadhar Mansingh, Surendra Mohanty, Udayanath Sarangi, Satyanarayan Rajguru, Radhanath Rath, and Nandini Satpathy. In musical shows and other entertainment programmes, the likes of Kali Charan Pattanaik, Radhakrishna Bhanja, Singhari Syamsundara Kar, Nimaincharan Harichandan, Upendra Kumar Tripathy, Sunanda Pattnaik, Bina Devi, Sanjukta Mohanty, Sumati Devi, Bhikari Bala, Prafulla Kar and Sikandar Alam were often invited.
Atha Nasika Sambada, a radio play written by Gopal Chhotray, one of the architects of modern Odia literature, was broadcast from AIR Cuttack in 1953 and was printed in the form of a book, which went on to win the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award in 1982.
Srimati Sammarjani, a music feature, originally written by Vyasakabi Fakir Mohan Senapati, adapted by Gopal Chhotray and produced by Akshay Kumar Mohanty, won the first prize in its category at a national competition in 1975.
Radio play, Tata Niranjana, written by playwright Bijay Kumar Mishra and produced by Sri Dasarathi Prasad Das, won the first prize at a national competition 1978.
Music feature, Amari Gaon, based on a poem by Laxmidhar Nayak, which was produced by Akshay Kumar Mohanty won the first prize in 1983.
AIR Cuttack received the Best Maintenance station award in 1989.