Beyond the News - FACT Analysis

Some Pakistanis are crazy after All India Radio FM

Harjap Singh Aujla

Listeners in Pakistan during the past more than seven decades were exposed to the long range shortwave service of All India Radio. FM in its clear and crisp quality of sound, came to India during the nineteen nineties, but the border regions of Punjab, particularly the Amritsar region, from where Lahore could be effectively covered, were deprived of FM for a long time.

Now we have an FM station at village Gharinda on the Grand Trunk Road in Amritsar near the border with Lahore, which has been in operation since September 2018. Due to height limitations of the short 100 meter high relaying tower, its signal does not reach its designed range of 100 kilometers inside the Pakistani Punjab. Due to height limitations of the hurriedly fabricated temporary transmitting tower, both the important down-town areas of Lahore and Amritsar are receiving extremely poor quality of signal from the so-called high powered FM transmitter. The properly designed 300 meters plus high tower built between 2006 and 2013, is standing majestically alongside the improvised short tower, but the tall tower has never been put to actual use. As a result, the designed range of the 20 kilowatt transmitter, which should at least be 100 kilometers inside Pakistan, has not so far been realized in Pakistan.

The ardent listeners of All India Radio FM inside Pakistan are adamant to get whatever they can possibly get under the circumstances. They are pulling out their telescopic antennae to the limit to receive the signal from as far away as possible. Some are using long copper wires to enhance the range. People are trying to pull the signal in places like Kasur, Narowal, Sialkot and Sheikhupura, which are outside the fringe areas of the low height broadcasting tower too.

Some people living at far off places like Peshawar are climbing up to the summits of the near-by hills to receive the signal from All India Radio Amritsar. One person wrote that he wakes up at about 6:00 am and walks to the top of the highest nearby hill taking nearly eighty minutes and he tunes in to his favorite program of All India Radio Amritsar at the hill top. He further says that on some days, when the signal gets poor, he climbs the near y tallest tree and listeners to his most favorite Indian programs relayed by All India Radio Amritsar. Some other Pakistanis are listening to their favorite programming at some peaks in the Muree Hills near Islamabad and Rawalpindi in the Greater National Capital region of Pakistan. These are only some of stories of the ardent fans of Indian programming in Pakistan, there are other stories too.

All this shows that the Indian programming is extremely popular in Pakistan. This also reinforces the demand of the people living in Amritsar – Lahore region to urgently complete the 300 +  meter high broadcasting tower, now standing partially dismantled at the remote village of Gharinda in the border region of Amritsar district. This tower was partially dismantled in 2020 with the purpose to rectify a minor tilt in its upper reaches. The work has been shut down since 2020. Perhaps the reason offered by Prasar Bharati is the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, but the authorities are perhaps forgetting that there is not an iota of Coronavirus in this remote region.    

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