17 January 2022

Radio/Tape Recorder Licence - 1984

My brother Tenze Choda handed me an old yellowed booklet titled "Radio/Tape Recorder Licence" that he found in an old trunk at home. Knowing my interest in old stuff, he has kept it aside for me. 

The booklet grabbed my attention at once. I heard about the need for a licence to own a radio and listen to it back in the days but this is the first time I am seeing one for myself. It was issued in my late father's name on 27th Feb, 1984. 

It was never renewed. Eight pages kept for renewal were left blank. It's because he passed away in the same year. They said I could barely crawl when my father's body was brought to the village. He was killed in a public service truck accident near Katsho bridge. He was in his 20s.

This document is fascinating in so many way; I am looking at it and wondering how my father would have felt when we brought home a radio and the licence to listen to it. Did he place the radio on the window and let the whole village hear it? I can only imagine how much it would have meant to him and my mother.

On seeing the document, my mother remembered wrapping her radio in a piece of cloth and hiding it in a grain box when she saw a few policemen coming to our village. This seems to suggest that my parents had a radio even before they got the licence.

Almost four decades later I am holding the same document in my hand and feeling nostalgic. Just like my father who is long gone, the relevance of the document, which was once a serious matter, is gone too. It's now a piece of history almost forgotten that reflects the life in those days.

Following are some interesting clauses from the document; 

1. No Radio set or a tape recorder shall be maintained and used in Bhutan except on the basis of a valid licence issued by the civil authority 

2. The licence shall be valid for the calendar year of issue only and is renewable every year on the payment of the prescribed fee.

3. a) b) Radio and tape recorder for domestic use: Nu.15/-

c) For each tape recorder or radio set used in shops, restaurants and similar places of trade or business with a view to attract or entertain customers: Nu.30/-

10. The person in possession of a radio or tape recorder without a valid licence issued by the civil authority is punishable with a fine of Nu.10/-

Nu. 15 was a big amount of money back then yet people paid it to acquire the right to listen to a radio. Looking back at it now, it seems so ridiculous and oppressive. But I am sure one day we will look back and feel the same about driving license. 

This small document from 1984 reminds us of how far we have come and how lucky we are now than ever before. 

1 comment:

  1. Nu. 15 was a big amount of money back then yet people paid it to acquire the right to listen to a radio. Looking back at it now, it seems so ridiculous and oppressive. But I am sure one day we will look back and feel the same about driving license.

    Yes, 'it seems so ridiculous and oppressive'.

    As a forest historian studying the colonial forestry in India, I know where this has come from.

    The motivations for European colonialism were to occupy lands and to profit as much as possible from the exploitation of the local people and the economic resources of the country.

    In the case of forests in India, the British Administration when they realized the forests as an important natural resource, they claimed and took control of all the forests. They then instituted a system of levying duties and royalties on timber and all forest produce. Once free goods, the local people then were required to apply, obtain Government permits and pay the fees and royalties for their timber and other forest produce requirements. A breach of forest rule invited heavy fines and punishment.

    When the British left India, their mindset had taken deep root in the Government system.

    The 1969 Bhutan Forest Act was a copy and paste of the colonial era 1927 forest law in India.

    The requirement of obtaining a license for radio / tape and paying the necessary fee is perhaps a colonial influence.

    One ridiculous license still existing in forest in the country is the fishing license. First, it is not a cultural practice for Bhutanese to fish. A very few Bhutanese who fish to supplement family income are criminalized. The simple tools employed like hooks and nets can never affect the fish populations. It represents a symbol of colonial oppression of the local people.

    Of course, the Government may justify the fishing rules from the point of fish conservation but in truth, British Administration in India employed this rule to generate local revenue like the license fee for Radio/Tape Recorder.

    The British as colonialists always looked for opportunity to make money. To run the Government, they dependent on the local revenue.


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