Bihar’s illiterate youth inspires story in NCERT book

PATNA: The rollercoaster ride to success of an illiterate Bihar youth, who launched a radio station and promoted social messages on polio, AIDS and other issues but was arrested for illegally running it, has found place in school textbooks.

The story of Raghav, in his mid-20s, and his ‘Raghav Radio’ has been published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in its book “Bharat Mein Samajik Parivartan Evam Vikas” (Social change and development in India) for Class 12.

The book describes Raghav as a role model for development in society. It highlights his struggle and the difficulties he faced after starting ‘Raghav Radio’ in Mansoorpur village in Vaishali district.

Raghav, who currently works as the project head of a community radio station in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district, told IANS over the phone that his “story in the NCERT book will inspire people, particularly the youths, to make a difference in society”.

The book mentions Raghav as being born in a family of agricultural labourers who were too poor to provide him with education.

It was in 2004 that Raghav, who had an electronics repair shop at Gudri Bazar near Mansoorpur and loved to tinker with old equipment, stumbled upon the innovative idea of launching a radio station.

With the old tools and gadgets that he had stored over the years, he launched his radio station that very soon became a hit with the villagers.

The station operated like a community radio service in Muzaffarpur, Vaishali and Saran districts, providing local news and views in the local dialect.

Apart from Hindi songs and news, it provided information about crime in the area, programmes on AIDS awareness, polio eradication, literacy initiatives and news about missing people as well as on local functions and festivals. And all that free of cost.

The media highlighted his story and he became very popular. The union communications ministry took notice too – but that was to be his undoing.

In 2006, the ministry sought a report on the legality of the private radio station. Raghav did not possess an operating licence as he was too poor to pay the licence fee and too naive to understand that it was illegal.

‘Raghav Radio’ closed down. The district authorities said it was closed for violating the Indian Telegraphs Act.

The government held him an offender and arrested him for a brief period but for people residing in and around Mansoorpur village, he was a hero.

Later, many NGOs came forward to help him and gave him vocational training.

Impressed by his talent and struggle, the Barefoot College at Tilonia in Rajasthan, run by Bunker Roy, appointed him the head of Barefoot Community Radio Station, the first of its kind in Rajasthan.

The radio service caters to the educational, development and socio-cultural needs of the local community in a radius of six to 10 kilometres through indigenously created broadcast programming.

From an ordinary illiterate youth to becoming someone who has the ability to inspire people through his simple deeds, Raghav has indeed come a long way. And the mission to inform and educate continues.