Pachagon Becomes Country’s First Wi-Fi Enabled Village
Barely 5 km from the Indo-Bangla border, a silent digital revolution is taking place.Welcome to Bengal’s first WiFi-enabled village, Kamalapur, where residents have turned netizens almost overnight. Before Kamalapur, a hamlet with a cluster of mud and pucca houses populated by around 1,500 residents, comes Geraponta bazaar, where Wi-Fi gadgets (hot spots) have been installed -inside shops, the century-old Geraponta high school (it now has computers) and the panchayat office.
The villagers, comprising mostly farmers and farm labourers, are happy with the hot spots, though their reach is only about 100 m. Kalyani Ghosh, 80, who never attended school and recently learnt to say “laptop”, is excitedly chatting online with her 23-year-old grandson, an electrician in Dubai.She is surrounded by the family’s goats and cows, and a whole lot of onlookers. “This is better than TV . I can talk to my naati (grandson) Bidyut,” she says, after two minutes of real-time communication.The computer has been Bidyut’s Poila Baishak (Bengali New Year) gift.
Hafizul Mondol, a teacher, says he bought a computer after his village got Wi-Fi connection, “but electricity is a problem”. There is power cut six hours in the night and eight hours in the day in this part of the world, he points out.
It’s a house divided, though. Anarul Mondol, a daily wager in his 30s, says he was never impressed with the Wi-Fi sop. “We don’t need such a thing (internet). We need jobs. We can’t afford smartphones or laptops.”
For former backward classes welfare minister Upen Biswas, it was a “dream to digitally connect villagers of my state”. “For the pilot project, we chose a remote place like Geraponta. What would logically have been the last-mile rural connectivity has turned out be the state’s first,” he says, recalling the resistance he faced from a group of villagers.
Biswas has lost his Bagdah Assembly constituency in the recently held elections, but a far-flung corner of Bengal has gained “connectivity”.