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India’s abrupt shut down of Shortwave transmissions

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | February 13, 2024 10:45 PM

By Harjap Singh Aujla
A brand new car loses half of its value when it gets out of the showroom. This is true of any big ticket item after it is sold. When the governments buy something, the money involved is not their’s, it is the tax payer’s money, not their own, that is why they don’t care. Decisions taken without debating the pros and cons of their consequences can be ruinous. This is what India recently did to its shortwave broadcasting services less than a decade ago.

It is easy to destroy an established institution than to build it brick by brick. Over a period of half a century India has been slowly building its shortwave broadcasting infrastructure, but it took only a few years to demolish it. During the peak of the Second World War, the London based rulers, in order to convey their point of view to the people of their colonies located thousands of miles away, painstakingly built India’s shortwave broadcasting services. Now more than seven decades after the war is over, in independent India, when the shortwave broadcasting services were helping in connecting the distant areas for conveyance of the information and news, the government decided to pull the plug on all the shortwave services and ordered the junking of the expensive transmitting equipment. Such decisions need nationwide debate, but nothing of that sort was ever done in a jiffy.

After studying all the merits of shortwave broadcasting, the government of free India wanted to see the voice of the capital stations of All India Radio in each state heard loud and clear in every part of the state. In the large states shortwave proved very successful. In the largest United Provinces, AIR Lucknow on shortwave was heard loud and clear in entire state. So was Patna in Bihar, Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and Bombay in Maharashtra State. In Punjab, the Capital Station AIR Jalandhar was picked up quite well in the Punjabi region, but in the Hindi region around New Delhi and the hill districts of Kangra, Lahaul and Spiti and Simla were poorly served, the then CM Sardar Partap Singh Kairon wrote to the Centre to build a shortwave station in Simla, which was established during the mid-1950s.

In a hurriedly arrived at decision in 1952, the then Central Minister of Information and Broadcasting Dr. B.V. Keskar decided to ban the broadcasting of film music from all the radio stations of All India Radio. This move proved counterproductive and the popularity of All Stations of AIR took a nose dive. In 1957, this decision was rescinded and Vividh Bharati Service was started using two 100 kilowatt shortwave transmitters located in Madras and Bombay. After that more high powered shortwave transmitters were acquired for being located in strategic places like near the Singhu border between Haryana and Delhi, Aligarh in U.P., Kingsway Camp in New Delhi and at other places in different states.

At one time some capital stations received 50 kilowatt shortwave transmitters and they proved very successful. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, a super transmitting station was established near Bangalore, the technological capital of India. It had 6 super powered 500 kilowatt shortwave transmitters, capable of reaching all parts of the globe. These transmitters were covering the most distant countries like the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Some programs were beamed to China too. Some of these shortwave transmitters had several years of life remaining in them. Then all of a sudden the decision to shut down all the shortwave services came. Thus came the proud project of an ambitious nation to a grinding halt. We know our arch rival is China, which is targeting us most effectively through its most powerful armada of shortwave transmitters. On the other hand, we are hapless spectators to our character assassination by China devoid of our own ability to retaliate. Our broadcasting services to Pakistan are also suffering.


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