Radio programme for soldiers going strong since WW II

By Ritu Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : A radio programme started during World War II for Indian soldiers posted in Afghanistan has not only gone from strength to strength but has also got its first woman announcer.

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“Sainikon ke Liye” (For the Soldiers) is a programme on public broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) that has continued to serve as a link between the soldiers and the rest of the country. It is compiled by the defence ministry.

“Just after independence the programme was broadcast from Srinagar and Delhi. But with the advent of technology it is now being broadcast only from Delhi,” Pratima Virendra Singh, the first woman producer-cum-anchor of the programme, told IANS.

The 40-minute programme that goes on air at 6.15 p.m. daily is an endeavour of the defence ministry to entertain soldiers, especially those posted in far-flung areas.

“We entertain in a different way. We do not play Hindi film songs but the regimental and folk songs sung by the soldiers themselves,” Singh said.

Since 2006, when she joined the programme, she has been going to the units to record the songs, including those in remote border areas like the Siachen base camp.

“Once I had a very strange experience,” Singh told IANS. “The commander of a unit posted in Ladakh came for the recording and the hierarchy-conscious soldiers could not even sing properly.

“Somehow I managed to bring the group to the studio and then the soldiers gave a brilliant performance. I recorded eight songs instead of the three scheduled earlier. Since then I make it a point to ensure the group is not singing in front of their commander.”

This is the only programme through which the defence minister broadcasts his message on the eve of every Independence Day. The chiefs of the army, the navy, the air force and coast guard also deliver messages through the programme.

The programme’s popularity is proved by the nearly 150 letters it receives every month from across the country. “There are many listeners who write regularly,” said Singh.

She has added a new angle — delivering messages from the families of soldiers posted in border areas.

“One has to see the happiness reflected in the eyes of a soldier sitting at the border when he gets a message from his wife or son back home. We have started this recently and have got a good response,” she said enthusiastically.

(Ritu Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])