The Times of India launched the Teach India campaign, the group (Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, BCCL) had begun a similar initiative for the visually challenged on its radio station, Radio Mirchi - Audio Books and Audio Newsreel. It started as a pilot project in Delhi four months ago and involved the employees of Radio Mirchi. Three days ago, the initiative was thrown open to listeners.
After the success of the pilot project in Delhi, the campaign was taken across 32 centres where Radio Mirchi has a station.
As part of the campaign, Radio Mirchi, in association with the National Association for the Blind (NAB), is recording audio books for the blind. Also, a weekly half-hour audio newsreel is produced.
Currently, Radio Mirchi is recording books for more than 84 institutes and catering to more than 5,000 visually challenged people. According to Mukherjee, these audio books include storybooks, textbooks for children and books with instructions on stitching and knitting for institutes that shelter destitute women.
Meanwhile, the weekly Audio Newsreel carries news and current affairs and other trivia from all over the world, and is delivered at institutes on Saturdays. The Newsreel can vary from station to station and also differs according to the demands of the different institutes. Mukherjee gives an example. "An institute in Mumbai asked us to record information differentiating between phonetically similar words like 'knight' and 'night'."
Currently, the Indian broadcasting law does not permit private radio stations to air news live.
Radio Mirchi has now begun inviting listeners to enrol to record books for the blind. This is currently restricted to Delhi, but would eventually be taken to other stations as well. "In just two days, more than 200 people have registered for the programme. They include people from SEC A and A+ and are mostly corporate executives, Delhi University professors, teachers and students," says Mukherjee.
The only criterion is clear speech and diction in English or Hindi. As the programme will be thrown open to listeners across other stations as well, other Indian regional languages will also be considered.
The NAB has installed recording software at the 32 Radio Mirchi stations across India. In Delhi, the registered volunteers will have to take out time to record books at three different centres: the NAB head office in RK Puram, Mirchi's branch office in Okhla, and the corporate office in Noida.
Mukherjee refused to divulge figures for expenditure on the campaign, except that, "The costs are minimal right now, which involves the cost of CDs, recording and transportation only. A larger project of building up a trust or something will come in later."