Taking inspiration from the Digital India campaign, four friends in Rajgarh District of MP turned three villages into free Wi-Fi zone. Turning the trend in reverse direction, two techies quit their jobs, while two others dropped the idea of migrating to a metro
Shakeel Anjum, Tushar Barthare, Bhanu Yadav and Abhishek Barthare are close friends since childhood. They played together, dined together, studied together at Rajeshwar Convent School in Rajgarh and also received Bachelor's Degree in Engineering from RGPV University Bhopal. Now they together created history by converting a Panchayat consisting of three villages—Shivnathpura, Devria and Bawadikheda Jagir, into country’s first free Wi-Fi enabled Panchayat.
Before taking up the project about six months back, Bhanu and Tushar worked with a web designing company in Ahmedabad, while Abhishek and Shakeel are pursuing higher studies in Bhopal. Shakeel is doing Masters in Cyber Law from National Law Institute University (NLIU) and Abhishek
is preparing for Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission exam. The Digital India campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 1, 2015, changed the track of their life. Bhanu and Tushar quit their jobs in Ahmedabad to make a “meaningful contribution” to the campaign.
They selected a village Shivnathpura in Rajgarh District and successfully converted it into a Wi-Fi zone on October 4, 2015.
“Internet is today a basic amenity. All governments and local agencies are turning digital for more transparency and to do the work faster. Many individuals or agencies are working in urban areas, but none is seen in the villages. In villages, there is no proper mobile phone network, forget the internet. If they have to travel a long distance to recharge their mobile phone, the state of digital services can be imagined there. We feel if these basic facilities are provided in villages, it will not only curb migration to cities, but will also make the rural life convenient. Therefore, we decided to make a small beginning in this regard from Shivnathpura,” says Shakeel Anjum while talking to Organiser.
A humble contribution in Digital India campaign: Shakeel Anjum
Shakeel Anjum, one among the four techie friends who created history in Rajgarh District of Madhya Pradesh by making a Panchayat Wi-Fi, feels that Digital India campaign will change the way work is done in our country. Talking to Organiser he says their initiative is a humble contribution to the Digital India campaign of PM Modi. Excerpts:
When Modiji launched Digital India campaign on July 1, 2015 we decided to voluntarily contribute in that in a meaningful way, as we feel that the scheme will change the way the work is done in our country.
We together spent about Rs 2.5 lakh from our own pockets and still pay Rs 8,000 per month to SKYNET. If the public representatives or government agencies extend help we can expand the service to other villages also. We have not done it for any commercial purpose. It is our honest contribution towards Digital India campaign. However, in future when the service is expanded in other villages also little amount will have to be charged to sustain it.
The government can support in many ways. District Collector Shri Tarun Kumar Pithode is taking interest. Public representatives including MPs and MLAs, Sarpanch, Zilla Panchayat Chairman, also have shown tremendous interest.
Modiji has a vision to uplift the nation. His Digital India mission, as I have studied, is basically to empower the common men. It will not only curb corruption at all levels but will also give a big push to development. This will also save energy of people, which is now wasted in unnecessary movement from one place to another. The work, which needs hours and days, will be done in minutes.
Village development is the collective responsibility of all. The government is doing what it can. But if people also join hands we can do it faster and in a better way. Now some of my friends in NLIU have also started coming forward. If the government or any other agency supports us, we can do it in a better and bigger way. n
However, making it happen was not easy. “In order to make the villagers realise the benefits of internet, we conducted awareness camps under the banner of Rajgarh Computer Sewa Sanstha for several months. Another major challenge was poor electricity supply, which was overcome by installing an inverter of 200 ampere. Then we took a lease line of 4 mbps from SKYNET Broadband Solution. It costed us about Rs 1.80 lakh at the initial stage only,” reveals Tushar Barthare pointing out that they have to spend Rs 8,000 per month as recurring expense. The response from the people in Shivnathpura was so tremendous that people from adjoining villages—Devria and Bawadikheda Jagir—also approached for the service. “Since the primary infrastructure was ready in Shivnathpura, it took no time to extend the service to Devria and Bawadikheda Jagir. We formally launched it on January 1, 2016 using 5.8 and 2.4 frequency devices,” Shakeel said adding that they can expand the service in 15 km radius on nominal expense, as they already have infrastructure for it.
The service was welcomed like a magical drug. Within a short span, more than 100 people purchased smartphones and many arranged laptops. “The service has benefited students the most. They search information about their studies, which is not available in textbooks. They also use video lectures from youtube. Farmers avail information about weather, mandi rates, etc. They also get their bank accounts opened in the village itself. Earlier, they had to travel over 8 km to reach Khilchipur block centre for all these services,” reveals Shakeel.
“It is no less than a miracle for us. The youth and farmers are the biggest beneficiaries. If the electricity supply is also improved in a similar way the life in village will become much easier,” feels Nathu Singh, a farmer in Bawadikheda Village. The business of Shri Laxminarayan Chauhan, who runs a kiosk of Bank of India in Shivnathpura for about one and a half year, has almost doubled. “Apart from availing the bank facilities, people now also download their Aadhar Cards, land records, information about MGNREGA, etc. Earlier, they had to go to Khilchipur for these services,” he says. “It is well received. People are thrilled the way it has eased doing things. Even those who do not know how to operate a mobile phone try to avail information from the youth,” says Pradip Sharma, Gram Rozgar Sahayak at Bawadikheda Jagir.
District Collector Tarun Kumar Pithode is happy with the initiative and has started efforts to make Rajgarh an e-district, but he feels that providing the service completely free will not be feasible in long term. “We are working on several models and have discussed it with some entrepreneurs also so that it becomes feasible,” he said.
The techies are not going to stop at Bawadikheda Panchayat only. “It is just a beginning. If we get support either from villagers, public representatives or government agencies, we want to connect other villages too with internet,” adds Shakeel. The initiative taken by these youth in Madhya Pradesh, if emulated at other places, has the potential to change the picture of rural Bharat. The change in the mindset of the youth needs appreciation.