Recently, I was in a village called Dabdar, in Ahwa block of Dang, Gujarat. It is beautifully situated on a river bank, close to a mountain, and can qualify for a hill station. The people are welcoming and believe in the philosophy of “Atithi Devo Bhava”. The purpose of the visit was to understand the issues people may be facing around Human Rights, or if they aren’t able to benefit from existing policies and laws.
It’s always better to get first-hand information by having conversations. While talking to one of them, I asked “Aap sanchaar se kya samajhte hain?” (What to do understand by media?) He said, “Kuch nahi.” I thought I’m unable to make him understand my question. So I moved on to the next one, “Agar sarkaar ki koi neeti aayi, toh apko kaise pata chalta hai?”, (how do you get to know if any government policy is introduced?), to which he responded, “Wahi toh pata nahi padhta” (That’s the issue, we don’t get to know).
From the village, I found out that some of them have electricity but almost no one has a mobile network. I came back and read up a bit to know that there are still 13,523 villages in our country, that aren’t electrified. This is the government data, which means the actual number can be more. Plus, there would be many households who do not have access to electricity even if their village is electrified. According to the Indian Government Scheme for rural electrification, a village is declared electrified if:
- Basic infrastructure such as distribution transformer and lines are provided in the inhabited locality as well as Dalit basti
- Electricity is provided to public places like schools, Panchayat office, health centers, dispensaries, community centers
- The number of households electrified should be at least 10% of the total number of households in the village
According to this, even if 10% households match the other two criteria, the village will be considered electrified, while the rest 90% households may forever be living in darkness. In the past, government has promised to electrify all villages by 2018 but it remains to be seen how many of them will actually have electric supply. Overall energy access remains low in many states, marked by poor quality, reliability, and duration of supply. Like a team is as strong as its weakest member, a country is as developed as its least developed village. No matter how many energy resources we have, if there are villages without electricity, we are living in darkness.
About mobile networks, the data given out by telecom ministry says that approximately 50000 villages do not have a mobile network, including those in North-East, Naxal-Hit states, Andaman and Nicobar Island and Lakshadweep. As I write this post using my 4G, assuming to reach hundreds of you through the power of social media, there are many who do not have a network. All these issues show the ever increasing gap between rural and urban tele-density (the number of telephone connections for every hundred individuals living within an area)
When we stress the importance of communication, two major sources are electricity and mobile phones. On one hand, we aren’t able to imagine our life without these, on the other, there are crores of people who don’t have access to it. If you can, imagine the pace of world they are living in. The immense amount of information that never reaches them, or reaches so late that it becomes redundant, resulting in their helplessness and hence, making the villages as under-developed as they are.