Voice of Talbehat: How a town council connected with its people

Bundelkhand region is known for its droughts, poverty and demand for a separate statehood. Governance and political structures are weak and not delivering at the grass-root level. Elected and selected representatives seem to make little effort to connect with people. However, an initiative called “Voice of Talbehat” in a local town council in one of the district in Bundelkhand, gives the hope that at least someone is trying to improve things.

Mukta Soni

Talbehat is a block and a “Nagar Panchayat” (Town council) in Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest districts of Bundelkhand region. Mukta Soni got elected as the chairman of Talbehat Nagar Panchayat in 2006. Talbehat town has a population of around 25 thousand people. She and her team’s longing to connect with all these people in her town gave birth to the idea of “Voice of Talbehat”. It’s is a unique and simple concept, where a control room is set up in the heart of the Talbehat town and more than 225 speakers were mounted on the electricity poles in every nook and corner of the town. “Any message can be heard by whole of the town with minimum effort within no time.” Says Mukta Soni. She further adds that the cycle rickshaws canvassing different messages in the lanes of Lalitpur inspired her for the idea of “Voice of Talbehat”.

Council member, Dileep Pathak, and husband Vijay Soni, helped Mrs Soni to give shape to her idea and all the other councilors supported this new concept and unanimously approved Rs 10 Lacs from the town council’s budget for this initiative. In January 2009, VoT started with modest one or two messages a day and today after three years, it’s an integral part of Talbehat’s public communication system.

“Messages broadcast from “Voice of Talbehat’s” control room involves information on “Tahsil Divas”, urgent requirement of blood for patients, advice from doctors on seasonal diseases, information about weather, train schedules, religious greetings, information about lost and found items in the town, important messages from the police, information about government schemes etc.”, says Narendra Goswami, the main announcer who lends his voice to this initiative form the control room.

A Speaker on a Pole

A four-member team from ministry of information and broadcasting, government of India, came to study the VoT system, it’s inception, process of setting up and reception among people. After being thoroughly impressed with the idea, the team is planning to recommend  similar systems to other town councils in India. In this electronic age, where technology companies are adding new dimensions to the world of communication and giving us multiple platforms to engage and connect with people every minute, this simplistic but extremely effective innovation in a small town of India seems like a great step by some motivated bunch of town councilors to connect with it’s people.

Shantanu Gupta is a development professional, currently a consultant with UNICEF. He has worked extensively on urban and rural poverty alleviation issues with leading NGOs, UN organizations and national/international donor community. He has worked in India, UK, Switzerland and Cyprus and can be contacted at er_shantanu[at]yahoo[dot]com

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