Robbing Peter to pay Paul, All India Radio has hurriedly shifted an FM transmitter meant for Ajmer to Amethi instead. Amethi in UP is Rahul Gandhi’s constituency while Ajmer in Rajasthan is represented by Sachin Pilot. The Congress may have rewarded Ajmer by making Pilot the Rajasthan unit chief, but the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s denial of the gift the city was expecting has upset the cultural circuit, while the BJP-led government is crying foul.
Of the 22 new centres nationwide slated to get an AIR FM radio station over the next one year, Ajmer’s project was close to completion. Officials said a transmitter had already reached Ajmer and was awaiting installation before it was shifted to Amethi in a last-minute decision. Ajmer, home to a popular Sufi shrine and a major tourist hub, had been awaiting a local radio station for years now. Last July, the central government announced several projects for Amethi including the AIR FM radio station at an investment of Rs 10.50 crore. “The infrastructure facilities at Ajmer are still under implementation. However the infrastructure at Amethi is already available,” R K Budhraja, engineer-in-chief (AIR), told The Indian Express. Therefore, the Ajmer transmitter was temporarily shifted to Amethi so that it could be effectively utilised. The center at Ajmer is likely to be ready in another four months. New FM transmitters have been ordered by AIR and are likely to be received shortly. One of these newly acquired transmitters will be installed at Ajmer as soon as the infrastructure is ready.”
Prasar Bharti chief executive officer Jawhar Sircar, too, defended the move. “There is a massive reshuffle across the country; we are trying to requisition unutilised transmitters to centres that are ready and can start functioning,” Sircar said. “There is no point keeping transmitters lying unused. This is just another instance where a transmitter was lying unutilised and was shifted out to a centre that needed it more urgently.” BJP spokesperson Jyoti Kiran, also head of a committee on new voters for the parliamentary elections, alleged a political objective. “The reasoning of AIR appears to be a poor attempt at camouflaging the reason for the shift,” Kiran said. “The Congress government has already lost Rajasthan and has no hope even in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, so it is giving unjustified incentives to Amethi, though they will lose there too. This strategy of doling out sops has already failed in Rajasthan and they need to understand that the political environment has changed today. People do not fall for sops any longer.”
In a massive expansion plan, AIR is working towards increasing its nationwide FM coverage from the existing 44 per cent to 65 per cent in the 12th plan period that closes in 2017. So far, AIR has FM radio at 363 locations across the country with 386 transmitters in use. A set of 49 new transmitters has been ordered and their delivery is expected shortly. These will cater to at least 22 new locations while the remaining transmitters are replacements.