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AIR plans special Punjabi service for Pakistan Punjab

Hoping to bring Pakistani Punjabis closer, reach out to the wider Punjabi diaspora and also counter neighbour Pakistan’s radio penetration in its territory, India is planning a special radio service in Punjabi.

The cleverly named Des Punjab, or country Punjab, which sends out the message of cultural oneness, will be implemented by India’s national broadcaster All India Radio (AIR), a senior official told DNA.

At present, a 20 KW FM transmitter installed in the Punjab border district of Fazilka carries AIR’s Urdu service for listeners in the region. Although it covers a radius of 80 km, has a penetration of up to 68 km inside Pakistan and caters to nearly 36 lakh Pakistani listeners, it misses its target as most of the audience speaks Punjabi.

“So, instead of carrying on with the Urdu service, AIR has plans to revitalise its existing internal Punjabi language channel from Jalandhar and broadcast it from Fazilka. The idea is to bring the once undivided Punjab closer and make it a medium for the Punjabi diaspora across the world while countering the popularity of Pakistan’s radio channels in India’s border areas, broadcast from Okara and Lahore,” an official explained.

The same Punjabi service can also be broadcast from the Amritsar tower once it is commissioned.

A 20 KW FM transmitter installed at Amritsar can reach Lahore, about 30 km away, as well as Pakistan’s Gujranwala and Sialkot areas, where people are predominantly Punjabi speaking.

The current Urdu service includes programmes highlighting India’s point of view on Kashmir, countering claims on India made by Pakistan media, discussions on “India’s secular values” as well as entertainment programmes on music, art and heritage. The Punjabi service bulletins will have similar content, sources said.

Similar initiatives will be taken in other regions bordering Pakistan. A total of 88 transmitters will be installed across the borders. Some work on this is already underway with other FM transmitters in the process of being installed in Himbotingla in Ladakh region, Naushera in Poonch district, Patnitok in Udhampur as well as in Uri, Kargil, Amritsar, the Chautan hill in Rajasthan border and the Gujarat-Bhuj border.

Many of these border areas are already covered by medium wave and short wave transmitters. This includes Kargil which offers a much longer range than FM transmitters. However, the transmission through medium wave transmitters is not clear; they are getting old and worn out and there is severe shortage of spare parts.

“While FM transmitters would cater to smaller distance as compared to the existing medium wave and short wave transmitters, they would be more effective with clearer transmission. It will also ensure better reach with most people accessing FM radio on their mobile phones,” an official said.