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Fewer news bulletins hurting our External Broadcasting

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | June 12, 2021 10:30 PM

By Harjap Singh Aujla
One day I listened to the entire Des Punjab Service of All India Jalandhar on FM 103.6 relayed by All India Radio Amritsar. To my utter dismay, there was not even one news bulletin during the ninety minute long service beamed to Pakistan, especially Lahore. Prior to it was the half an hour long Saraiki Service, there was no news bulletin in that one too. At least half of Pakistan’s population speaks Punjabi and it deserves at least one news bulletin in Punjabi.

These bulletins can be prepared in the New Delhi based national newsroom. On the other hand Pakistan’s intelligentsia and bureaucracy both speak and communicate in Urdu. These two languages are the most important in the rural and urban Pakistan. Several times I have tried to listen to All India Radio’s both Urdu and Punjabi services, but found their programs seriously deficient in the departments of news and commentaries on current topics.

As I understand, for broadcasting to Pakistan, All India Radio’s external service commentaries are conceived in Urdu, composed in Urdu and then forwarded to the other languages for translation and actual broadcast. This arrangement may be fully acceptable to the translators in Balochi, Pushton, Sindhi and Dari, but for the translators in Punjabi language, it creates genuine problems. In Indian (East) Punjab, where teaching of Urdu was discontinued in 1947, at least three generations have grown up since 1947, most of the first generation is not living anymore and those still alive are beyond their age of retirement. The new generation of Punjabis in India does not know Urdu. It is difficult for the new generation to translate difficult Persianised and Arabic dominated modern Urdu terminology into Punjabi. As a result, after prolonged requests and discussions, by special permission from the New Delhi office of the external services, all the commentaries of Des Punjab Service are received in Urdu in Jalandhar and broadcast as such. But an overwhelming majority in rural Pakistani Punjab does not understand the difficult Urdu terminology and it becomes impossible for them to understand what India says in chaste Urdu. What use can it be, If the targeted audiences can’t understand the language being beamed towards them. Prudent judgment dictates that in the Des Punjab Services, the news and commentaries on current affairs must be in Punjabi spoken primarily in rural West Punjab.

My own point of view is that all the foreign service commentaries should be originally written in English. All the external service broadcasters in Punjabi, Urdu, Sindhi, Pushton and Balochi should get the English version and then translate that into their respective languages and broadcast the translated script. The dominant and most populous spoken Punjabi in Pakistan is that of old Lahore division, which prior to 1947 was considered the central division. On the Indian side, this language is spoken in only Amritsar (including Tarntaran) and Gurdaspur (including Pathankot) and Ferozepur city and Zeera. Some refugee Punjabis from Pakistan living in Karnal, Kurukshetra, Kaithal and Ambala districts of Haryana, also speak beautiful Lahori Central Punjabi. The broadcasters for the Des Punjab Service of All India Radio should be selected from these areas. A familiar language is always better received in the target areas. For example British English is better received in the United Kingdom and Yankee English is better received in the USA.

As far as the Urdu Service is concerned, its spoken Urdu is almost perfect Talat Mahmoodian Lucknowi Avadhi (Gango-Jumni) language. The Pakistani audiences are hooked to the old Bollywood film music and their own vintage film music. They don’t appreciate the modern Indian pop and film music. India must Feed them what they want to hear. As said earlier, the Des Punjab Service must include at least one news bulletin in Punjabi too. Staff is already there generating national bulletins. Similarly all three Urdu Service transmissions beamed to Pakistan deserve one Urdu News Bulletin in each transmission. The duration should be of ten minutes.

Pakistan has two mega cities Karachi and Lahore of the importance and size of New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Both these cities deserve to be effectively covered by the Urdu Service of All India Radio. Karachi is outside the FM range of All India Radio, but it is effectively covered by a 1000 kilowatt medium-wave transmitter of All India Radio located in Rajkot (Gujarat). It is the 1000 kilowatt transmitter. Lahore is well within the local FM range of All India Radio Amritsar. This strategically located radio station on 103.6 MHz, must carry all three transmissions of Urdu Service. There is no reason why the nightly transmission is not carried by this transmitter. It is the only service, which is received in the clearest signal in its targeted area. Let us keep our fingers crossed and hope that the partially dismantled three hundred meter high tower at village Gharinda in Amritsar is quickly rebuilt and readied without further loss of time for external broadcasting. Its signal beamed from the one thousand foot high tower, will reach all the towns and villages within one hundred kilometers radius of its location in both India and Pakistan. Once the full height of the tower is restored and commissioned, I shall recommend two more FM radio transmitters installed on this tower. One should carry the Vividh Bharati Service and the other should carry the local radio service and the primary service of All India Radio Jalandhar.

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