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Monday, August 7, 2017

AIR Chhatarpur Foundation day - Mohan Singh, Retired Chief Engineer recalls .....



Akashvani  Chhatarpur  (Madhya Pradesh) is celebrating  anniversary  of its commissioning  on  7th August. 

This station operates on 675 Kilohertz Medium Wave frequency. It covers the districts of Bundelkhand region which lies in the two adjacent states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The operating frequency being at lower end of the medium wave radio band ; and Chhatarpur being blessed with fertile terrain, it leads to a strong ground wave which reaches long distances, covering a vast area. Normally, such a situation would be a delight for any broadcast engineer. But the same caused me quite a few anxious days when I undertook Field Strength Survey of this station many years ago. The year was 1981. At that time I had a rather fancy designation of Deputy Assistant Regional Engineer (equivalent to today’s Assistant Director Engineering). I was working on some project in MP , when I got a message from the Regional Engineer in Bombay (now Mumbai ) asking me to go to AIR Chhatarpur and carry out Field Strength Survey. Accordingly, I reached Chhatarpur. There, one Senior Engineering Assistant and one Motor Driver with a vehicle (Standard 20), and a Potomac portable field strength meter – all arranged by the Regional Engineer of West Zone - were waiting for me.

For those of our readers who are not from technical background, let me explain in simple terms that the Field Strength Survey requires an engineer to move away from the transmitter in all possible directions and take reading of radio field strength using a Field Strength Meter at every 10 to 15 Km. distance till the reading shows consistently a value of 1.4 milli volt per metre or more. This procedure is to be carried out at the same spot during daytime as well as after night fall. I would have liked to complete the survey in one direction every day. But as the coverage of the transmitter was very vast, it would take me to distant parts of Bundelkhand, mostly across rural areas. Against my wishes, I would not be able to finish survey in one direction in one day. Those were the days when there was no cellular mobile coverage, not even landline phones were to be found easily .So I would be mostly out of contact with AIR Control Room or transmitting centre once I started out for survey till I returned back at the end of each stage. I was planning the details of survey work when somebody in the station casually mentioned about the gangs of notorious dacoits operating in the Bundelkhand region at that time. This set the alarm bells ringing in my mind. Those were ruthless gangs involved in kidnapping, ransom, murder, loot etc. Some of them have become legend and are still fresh in the memory of the local folks till this day. I had not factored this aspect in my plans. What would I do if I came face to face with such dacoits during the course of the survey? What if the outlaws kidnap me or my staff for ransom, or if they rob our costly Field Strength Meter or our vehicle? I was responsible for the safety and security of staff and equipment under my charge. For the first time, I wished that the coverage area were smaller, so I would be nearer to the radio station when help was required. But alas! in the given circumstances, there was no alternative but to face all types of situations. So I started to think how the unpleasant situations could be avoided. Two days were spent in servicing and repair of vehicle, and collecting detailed maps etc. On one of these days I happened to meet the local MLA in his office . I utilized the opportunity and told him about my task, my apprehension about possible encounters with dacoits, and asked him about tips to handle them if necessity arose. He pondered over the problem and said : “ Yes, it is true that dacoit gangs are operating over the area and they should better be avoided. You have nothing to worry during daytime. The risk is more at night. But I have heard that your station is very popular among the masses even in rural and remote areas of Bundelkhand. So I don’t think that the dacoits would harm you . However, to take care of the worst scenario, I am giving you a letter. If you show it to the outlaws, they will not harm you. On your part, as a precaution, do not reveal your travel plans to strangers.”

Saying this, he soon gave me a letter typed on his letterhead, complete with seal and stamp. I grabbed it eagerly and read it immediately. It was written in chaste Hindi, and declared that I was an officer of Akashvani / Government and should be helped in my work by all concerned. It was like my passport to gangland. I felt relieved and euphoric. But the next moment a thought struck my mind. What if the dacoit turns out to be “Angootha Chhap” (Illiterate)? And why would a dacoit of Uttar Pradesh care for a letter from an MLA of Madhya Pradesh? Euphoria soon gave way to hopelessness. The letter which appeared like a passport a few moments ago, now seemed like a scrap of waste paper, and it must have shown on my face. For, the MLA asked : “What are you thinking, Mohan Singh?” “Nothing “, I said. How could I tell him what I was thinking? I thanked him and came out of his office. Just then, I remembered him saying that the station was very popular and the popularity would make the outlaws not to harm my team. This thought came as a great relief and I resolved to start the survey work without any more worry. We carried out the survey without any hitch. During daytime, the rural roads were full of people, and those people were quite friendly . But at night time, even as early as 8 PM, there would be no people visible outside in villages, as almost all of them confined themselves in their homes behind closed doors. We did not encounter any outlaws and the survey was completed. Now on the occasion of anniversary of Akashvani Chhatarpur, I have to say this to the station staff : Your station’s popularity once helped me to overcome a lot of anxiety. I wish you would succeed in continuing to maintain the high standards of broadcasting which you had achieved in times gone by.

 Forwarded By :- Mohan Singh, Retired Chief Engineer , A.I.R.,mohansingh42@yahoo.com

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