Patna: Coming July, special radio programmes will be aired in Bihar for Mahadalits, the poorest of the poor in the state, to educate them about the importance of literacy, sanitation and giving up on bad habits like consuming alcohol and tobacco.

"The government has decided to launch special radio programmes from July to educate and create awareness among Mahadalits," Ravi Parmar, principal secretary in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe welfare department, told here.

Parmar said the department was working on special radio programmes that will be aired by Akashvani (All India Radio, Patna) in hired air time slots of 15 minutes.

As per Census 2011, Dalits constitute nearly 15 percent of Bihar's 104 million population. A total of 21 of the 22 Dalit sub-castes have been identified as Mahadalits. They include the Musahar, Bhuiyan, Dom, Chamar and Nat communities.

The department is taking the help of experts, artists and writers to prepare catchy and entertaining programmes."Only quality and catchy programmes will catch the attention of the target audience and will create an impact," Parmar said.

The radio programmes will touch upon issues like tobacco consumption and alcoholism and their dangerous effects. The programmes will also focus on their social and cultural life.

Officials said the radio initiative will overcome a major hurdle illiteracy of the target audience. The government is also ensuring that the families own radio sets.

According to department officials, the government early this month launched a special scheme to provide radios to Mahadalit families. About 2.2 million radio sets would be distributed among Mahadalit families through this initiative."The officials are busy monitoring the distribution of radios to the Mahadalit families," an official said.

In 2009, the state government had decided to directly hand over Rs.400 to each family to purchase radios.

However, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said it was decided not to give the money as officials of the SC/ST welfare department and the Mahadalit Vikas Mission apprehended that the money might be misused.

Bihar was the first state in the country to constitute a Mahadalit Commission. It was decided that the commission would study the status of the neglected sub-castes among Dalits and suggest ways to uplift them.

The commission's first interim report has painted a poor picture of the community."Mahadalits have virtually no representation in government jobs, their literacy rate is below expectation and they have not benefited from poverty alleviation schemes," a commission official said.

The 186-page report said the literacy rate among the Nat sub-caste is just one percent while it is six percent among the Musahars and nine percent among the Mehtars. Social scientist A.K. Jha said Mahadalits failed to get any benefit from reservations because of their extreme backwardness.

In educational institutions to the children of Mahadalits were discriminated against and a majority of them dropped out of school. Most members of the community worked as bonded labourers.