New Delhi : “Hello! I am Vartika Nanda, trying to make a rainbow behind the bars of the jail.” With these words, Dr. Vartika Nanda, India’s leading prison reformer and media educator represented India at the first International Prison Radio Conference on June 15, 2022, in Oslo, Norway. Organized by the Prison Radio Association in collaboration with the Norwegian Correctional Services Directorate, the conference was a historic event bringing together participants from over 20 countries. It was intended to facilitate global knowledge and experience-sharing on the potential of prison radio in the humanization of prisons and the rehabilitation of prisoners.
Story of Prison Radio in India
30-minute detailed presentation included an overview of prison radio in India and a jail radio initiative implemented by her non-profit organization, the Tinka-Tinka Foundation in the district jails of Agra and Dehradun, as well as 8 prisons in Haryana. More than 100 prisoners have been trained as RJs under the aegis of Dr. Vartika Nanda, the founder of Tinka-Tinka Foundation. About a dozen songs have been released during prison radio training and its implementation.
Nanda also gave a broader view of her acclaimed ‘The Straw Model of Prison Reforms’, which harnesses the power and creativity of the media to integrate prison inmates with the mainstream. She respectfully referred to the support she has received from government officials in this endeavor. Explaining the underlying philosophy of prison radio in India, Nanda emphasized the importance of freedom of expression behind bars for the overall progressive development of society. Dr. Nanda highlighted that Tinka-Tinka Jail was trying to make the outside world aware of the life of prisoners in jails with the help of radio.
Confluence of experiences
The two-day conference included a visit to the Oslo prison and provided an opportunity to study the prison radio project. The prison tour was specifically designed to help them understand the best practices adopted by Norwegian prisons. The participants also shared their views on logistics, limitations, scope, and opportunities related to prison radio projects. There was a general consensus among participants that prison radio could strengthen democratic values and freedoms around the world.
About Tinka-Tinka Foundation and Dr. Vartika Nanda
Tinka-Tinka is the brainchild of prison reformer and media educator Dr. Vartika Nanda, who heads the Department of Journalism at Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi. She has been awarded the Stree Shakti Puraskar by the President of India in 2014. Her work on prisons has found a place in the Limca Book of Records twice. Her work on prisons was taken cognizance by the Supreme Court of India in 2018. Her recent research on “Study of the condition of women prisoners and their children in Indian prisons and their communication needs with special reference to Uttar Pradesh” was recognized by the ICSSR.
Earlier, Tinka-Tinka Foundation had started Jail Radio in the District Jail, Agra in 2019. The development of prison radio in Haryana is part of an ongoing study on the straw-tinsel model of prison reform. The Tinka-Tinka Podcast aired by her on YouTube is India’s only podcast on prisons. Tinka-Tinka’s tagline is – Trying to make rainbows in prisons. Every year the Tinka Tinka Foundation also encourages prisoners and prison staff by presenting the Tinka-Tinka India Award. This is also the only award for prison reform.
With a doctorate in journalism and over two decades of experience in electronic and print media
Vartika Nanda is the Head of the Department of Journalism at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. Earlier, she worked as Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. She started early, as the youngest among the very few women reporters in India who ventured into crime reporting and rose to become the head of crime beat in NDTV in the early years of private media. She is also a media educator and India’s leading prison reformer.
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Images Courtesy : vartikananda.com ,Twitter