Free radios to perk up "untouchables"

PATNA, India Wed Aug 5, 2009 12:10pm EDT

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PATNA, India (Reuters) - Authorities in eastern India are distributing free radio sets to lower-caste villagers so that they can listen to music and news after a hard day's work and improve their awareness, officials said Wednesday.

Officials of Bihar state are distributing transistors costing 400 rupees ($8) each among hundreds of "Dalits" or the formerly "Untouchables" who remain oppressed at the bottom of India's ancient Hindu caste system.

"It (radio) will entertain the tired villagers with music and will make them aware about what is happening around with news," Bihar's Tribal Welfare Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, said Wednesday.

Manjhi said the move will empower the dalit villagers further and raise general awareness levels.

"You can listen to music, news and improve your areas of information if you have a radio at home," Chief Minister Nitish Kumar added.

More than 16 percent of India's 1.1-billion population are Dalits and they continue to face discrimination and injustice although untouchability now is a crime.

(Writing by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Sanjeev Miglani)

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