AIR’s 12-hour Urdu service goes off air, listeners want it back

FM Amritsar 103.6 was broadcast from a tower at Gharinda village and was more popular in Lahore

AIR’s 12-hour Urdu service goes off air, listeners want it back

Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 2

Listeners of the All-India Radio’s FM Amritsar 103.6 service, being broadcast from FM tower at Gharinda village close to the India-Pakistan border at Attari-Wagah Joint Check Post, are dismayed at the government for snapping the 12-hour long Urdu service.

After the lockdown and curfew post coronavirus outbreak, the Urdu service was discontinued from AIR FM Amritsar 103.6 MHz. Shortwave services are becoming unpopular in Pakistan, while the FM services are gaining popularity all over.

Harjap Singh Aujla, a retired engineer, said: “Of late, the All-India Radio’s FM Amritsar 103.6 became very popular in the Lahore region of Pakistan. Its reception of the Urdu service of AIR was better in Lahore than in Amritsar. Although it could not reach some downtown areas of Lahore city, in outer and suburban Lahore, its reception was reasonably good.” Aujla demanded that AIR should recommission the Urdu service from Amritsar without further delay.

The original 1,000-ft high tower remained non-commissioned due to some technical issue and the 300-ft high tower was being used to relay the programmes, defeating the very purpose of reaching out to a larger audience, he said, adding that if it gets commissioned, it would reach all parts of Lahore as well as the most difficult parts of Amritsar city.

Another avid FM radio listener, Mohan Singh, said: “Residents of the border district remained cut-off from highly informative and entertaining FM broadcast programmes and the radio culture for decades because the programmes being broadcast from the Goraya antenna of Jalandhar radio station never reached here. Listeners were delighted to get some surprise in the shape of Gharinda (Amritsar) FM station.”

But shockingly, the height of the new transmitter as well as the power claimed to be 20 KW do not seem to be delivering, he said. “Now, they have totally withdrawn the Urdu service from Gharinda station. The daily two-hour Asa di Vaar is a popular feature, no doubt, but the Urdu content was directed towards the audience across the border, where this is very popular particularly in the Mofussil areas. I request the authorities not to give up this high-priority 12-hour Urdu slot because it is very useful for projecting the Indian point of view as well,” he said.

Santosh Rishi, Director, All-India Radio, Jalandhar, who administers the Gharinda tower, said: “The 12-hour Urdu programme used to be relayed by the Delhi office. Since the coronavirus pandemic has intensified in the capital, the staff members are unable to rejoin the office. It is a temporary phase, in which programmes were off air and the service will be resumed once the staff rejoins.”