Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh, not so long ago, an old train passenger woke up at midnight to find the train standing in the middle of nowhere. Perplexed and disoriented, he asked aloud, "Ye train kahan khadi hai? (Where has this train stopped?)" Instead of an answer, he got a question from a fellow passenger: Kya aap Onkarnath Srivastav hain? Jo BBC par khabarein padhte hain? (Are you Onkarnath Srivastav? The one who reads the news on BBC?) Srivastav was one of the stalwarts of BBC Hindi Service in the 1990s and the incident was a reaffirmation of the Awaz-hi-pehchaan-hai belief of BBC Hindi Service staffers.
This live connect with the audience would play out in a very different way two decades later. When BBC said it will close down its Hindi service due to paucity of funds, it led to such an outcry among its fans in India that the broadcaster was forced to retract its decision. Now, BBC has agreed to keep alive a one-hour daily transmission for a year as it explores commercial funding for the service.
The closure announcement had shocked millions of radio listeners across India. For decades, BBC Hindi has been their lifeline, not only for news and current affairs but as a credible source of analysis and world knowledge. That explains why thousands of handwritten letters land at Bush House in London every month.
But this temporary reprieve may not be enough to sustain BBC Hindi in the long term. Tufail
06:04 PM, Mar 15, 2011