Who are you calling helpless!

In the Information Age, where new media has stolen the spotlight, old media such as radio are left unnoticed. However, if we want to be realistic, radio, and particularly community radio is sometimes the only means people have to communicate and receive news and information. Pieterse (2005) contends that “media such as community radio allow more local input and have greater outreach and development potential than the fancy digital media” (p.23). The case I will depict in this post is a collaboration between the BBC and a community radio in the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states in India to raise awareness about bonded labour and human rights.

Bonded labour, although abolished in 1976 in India, still poses a major problem in the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states. Over 250 million people are at risk of falling victim for this process wherein workers take high-interest loans from their employers. These employers, then basically enslave the workers’ families to get their money back. For this reason, the BBC Media Action worked with the community radio in these two states to air a 36-episode radio program called Majboor Kisko Bola! (Who are you calling helpless!).

The program presented testimonials from bonded labourers, drama based on true stories, and regional folk songs to keep the audiences entertained. An impact assessment based on 20 listener groups showed that the program did not only gain popularity among the people, but also enhanced their understanding vis-a-vis labour rights such as government help and fair wages. But most importantly,  families of bonded labourers started taking action against.

Majboor Kisko Bola! did not end after the 36 episodes, but was rather extended off the airwaves into 3 ‘Listeners dialogue’ (Shrota Samwad) wherein the program’s audiences voiced their worries and complaints to district officials. More than 800 listeners of the radio show attended and 600 of them voiced their complaints about the lack of safety precautions at work, minimum wages, and other issues. The Upper District Magistrate listened to the complaints and promised to find solutions.

Majboor Kisko Bola! is just one simple example of how community radio can change the lives of the people it reaches.

Here is one of the episodes! English subtitles included.


Pieterse, J.N. (2005). Digital Capitalism and Development: The Unbearable Lightness of ICT4D. Lovink, G., & Zehle, S. (Eds.). Incommunicado Reader (pp.11-29). Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Majboor Kisko Bola! (‘Who are you calling helpless!’). Retrieved Oct. 25, 2014, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaaction/where_we_work/asia/india/bondedlabour_slideshow