Tejasvi Chauhan, a PhD scholar from IIT Bombay, had only one aim for the last 15 months, i.e., children from his neighbourhood get proper access to online classes. His months of struggle has finally ended as his remote village in Himachal Pradesh has got 4G mobile connectivity.
The IITian's struggle started in March 2020, when the central government announced the first nationwide lockdown induced by COVID-19.
Before that, Chauhan regularly faced issues with the mobile network as he could not talk to his grandmother because his hometown had no phone connectivity. He went back to his village during this period, but his problems still had no end.
The PhD scholar could not attend his online classes. At the same time, he realised that students in his neighbourhood also had no access to online courses. There were around 1,000 kids across different age groups. In case of a medical emergency too, the area faced many problems as there was no connectivity.
Located 80 km from Shimla, the village had no direct road connectivity till 2021. Residents trekked for 20-minutes to reach the Panchayat village that had a road, The New Indian Express reported.
Nearby villages like Baag under Jodna Gram Panchayat of Chopal block in Shimla district and several villages under nearby Panchayats too faced the same problems.
Bringing Changes In Villages
Determined to bring a positive change, Chauhan began reaching out to different sections of people. The mobile service providers were reluctant to invest money into another tower as one was very nearby.
"But there was a range in between, and this ridge was taller than the tower, so villages on our side never got a proper signal," Chauhan told IANS, according to The New Indian Express.
Installing a repeater was an option, but BSNL and other private companies did not budge and getting it on their own would have been illegal.
One of the options was to have temporary connections as provided during disaster management, as mentioned in research papers by one of his teachers, Professor Rajkumar Pant. The latter, however, suggested Chauhan look for permanent solutions instead. He also put the PhD scholar in touch with IIT alumni, Sagar Sharma, a scientist with a government agency.
Through Sharma, Chauhan reached out to the Ministry of Communications with a Universal Service Obligation Fund for erecting towers and getting better communication facilities to remote areas.
Hard Work Pays Off
Chauhan then approached the Pradhan of his village and got an application signed in August 2020. Then, he got it endorsed by the local MLA and finally went to local MP Suresh Kashyap. He discussed the matter with the Ministry of Communications, which eventually got the tower sanctioned.
However, his challenges did not end here. Although the work for the construction of this tower started in January 2021, logistic problems caused a lot of delays. "Sometimes, heavy snowfall in winters and frequent landslides in the monsoon that broke road connectivity meant the material and equipment did not reach our village in time," the civil engineer from NIT Hamirpur said.
"Work completed recently in December, and now finally my village has proper 4G connectivity in the new year," Chauhan said.