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December 6, 2023 9:50 am

In spite of huge disparities in resources, India’s neighbourhood services are a poor cousin of Pakistan

Harjap Singh Aujla
Harjap Singh Aujla

Pakistan’s second largest city of Lahore is the home to more than 13 millon population and is barely fifty kilometers away from East Punjab’s, often in the limelight, turbulent city of Amritsar. It is not just a coincidence that all the political agitations in the Indian Punjab start from Amritsar. Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation has stationed some permanent staff members in the studios of Radio Pakistan Lahore who take their instructions from their Ministry of External Affairs based in Islamabad. Whenever the authorities in Pakistan see some kind of political unrest about to brew in Amritsar, they quickly move into action and prepare special programs to influence the public opinion in the Indian Punjab. Their flagship program in Punjabi language is called “Punjabi Darbar”, which has been running without a break since mid1960s. It is written and spoken in Lahori-Amritsari slang.I have to admit that this propaganda service is quite seriously heard in the Majha region of East Punjab.

As long as the long range shortwave transmitters in India were not mothballed and the medium-wave transmitters had some life remaining, we did not need FM service for our external broadcasts to Pakistan. But now All India Radio (Akashvani) has to depend on FM radio services only. A big flaw in the FM service is that it depends on point to point line of sight communication between the broadcasting station and the receiver radio and its range is very short. Since India has already taken a short sighted decision of shutting down our long range (shortwave) and medium-wave (medium distance) services, we are sadly confined to only the FM service.

East (Indian) Punjabs capital radio station is AkashvaniJalandhar. This radio station is located eighty miles or one hundred and thirty kilometers from our city of focus Lahore. With present capabilities of FM, there is no way Jalandhar station of Akashvani can reach whole of Lahore from its 100 meter high tower within the studio complex and a 200 meter high tower at village Khurla Kingra with a range of 50 miles or 80 kiilometers. As the things stand the only station which can cover the Lahore region in entirety is the Gharindatransmitting station of Akashvani Amritsar FM. PresentlyAmritsar has 3 towers. The first one is at village BasarkeGillan built in 1973 with a height of 328 feet (100 meters). It is over designed and its height can be easily increased to 400 feet. The second tower is the unlucky 300 meter high tower at Gharinda, now brought down to 203 meters. At 203 meters height its range can be 80 kilometers or 50 miles. The third one is the stay wire supported 100 meter (or 328 feet) high temporary tower, which is operating since 2018 at the drastically reduced range of 50 kilometers (32 miles). If restored to full height it can cover entire Majha region of India from Pathankot to Khemkaran as well as the entire city of Lahore and its adjoining areas in Pakistan. Radio Pakistan is using a chain of FM transmitters all along its border with the Indian Punjab from Sialkot to Lahore, Kasur and Sahiwal. India needs to use only one transmitter to effectively cover entire border region in both Punjabs.

The current India – Canada conflict has given fresh highly lethal ammunition to Radio Pakistan Lahore to keep its guns blazing at India. On India’s part, the late evening Urdu Service is not being broadcast by Akashvani Amritsar, its reasoning I fail to understand. The Punjabi Service known as “Des Punjab Service” has been reduced from 2 hours a few years ago to 90 minutes until a couple of months ago and has been slashed to just one hour after a recent change. I don’t know if the Prime Minister of India is aware of these changes.

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