By Pavani Chandhok
“Namaste! This is Vartika Nanda,attempting to create rainbows in prisons.” With these words, India’s leading prison reformer and media educator commenced her talk at the first International Prison Radio Conference in Oslo, Norway, on June 15, 2022, representing India. The conference, organised by the Prison Radio Association in collaboration with the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Services, was a historic event bringing together participants from over 20 countries. It was aimed at facilitating global knowledge and experience-sharing on the potential of jail radio in humanizing prisons and rehabilitating inmates.
Story of Prison Radio in India
Her 30-minute exhaustive presentation included an overview of prison radio in India and details of prison radio initiatives implemented by her non-profit organisation, Tinka Tinka Foundation, in District Jails of Agra and Dehradun as well as 8 jails of Haryana. More than 100 inmates have been trained as RJs under the aegis of Dr. Vartika Nanda, founder of Tinka Tinka Foundation. Nearly a dozen songs have been released during the course of prison radio training and its implementation.
Nanda also gave a comprehensive view of her acclaimed ‘Tinka Model of Prison Reforms’ that utilizes the power of media and creativity for integrating jail inmates with the mainstream. She respectfully mentioned the support that she has received from government authorities in her efforts.
Explaining the philosophy underlying the jail radios in India, Nanda emphasized the importance of freedom of expression behind the bars for overall progressive development of the society. Dr. Nanda highlighted that
Tinka Tinka was trying to sensitize the outside world about the lives of inmates in the prisons with the help of prison radio. .
A Confluence of Experiences
The two-day conference included a visit to Oslo Prison and provided an opportunity to study the prison radio project therein. The prison tour was especially designed to help understand the best practices adopted by Norwegian prisons. Participants also shared their views on the logistics, limitations, scope and opportunities concerning prison radio projects. There was a consensus among participants that prison radio can strengthen democratic values and liberties across the world.
About Vartika Nanda
Dr. Vartika Nanda is the founder of Tinka Tinka Foundation and the Head of Department of Journalism at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi. She was honored with the Stree Shakti Award from the President of India in 2014 for her work in media and literature. Her work on prison reforms has twice found a place in the Limca Book of Records. Her recent research titled, “Study on the condition of women inmates and their children in Indian Prisons and their communication needs with special reference to Uttar Pradesh” (ICSSR 2019-20) has been evaluated as ‘outstanding’ and recommended for publication. Her work on prisons was taken cognizance by the Supreme Court of India in 2018. Her Tinka Tinka Jail Radio podcasts are the only podcasts in India that are solely dedicated to prison reforms. Vartika Nanda has also recently announced a book documenting the birth and growth of prison radio in India to be released soon.