Students in Kashmir cross forests, trek hills for better connection to access online classes

Jammu: It is eight in the morning and 16-year-old Sheikh Haroon is getting ready to trek over three kilometers along with his younger brother and other boys of the village to catch a 2G signal so as to access his online classes. Haroon lives in the remote village Dudran in the border town of Uri’s Boniyar block.

“It has become a routine now and we have been doing this for the last more than a year,” says Haroon as per the report.

Haroon, an 11th standard student, says that their day begins at 10 am.  “We have to walk in the forest area almost over three kilometers daily to find a spot where our phones catch signal. The online classes continue till 4 in the evening. We also take lunch with us,” he says.

Haroon studies in Government Higher Secondary School, Boniyar some eight kilometers from his village. “Our lives have become hell since COVID-19 outbreak as schools are shut. We have to study online and the mode is not available here,” says Haroon.

Haroon’s younger brother Owais Rasheed, a 7th class student says that their village has been completely neglected by the government. “In 21st century, our village doesn’t have any mobile or landline connectivity. We are living in the dark times. It looks like this village doesn’t exist in Kashmir,” says Owais.


Threat to the lives of Kids

Several issues are posing a serious threat to the lives of the children while going for the online classes in the higher reaches of the mountains which could cause its disruption. “Since we go into the dense forests to find the phone connectivity, we always feel threatened because of the presence of wild animals. We have spotted leopards, bears and snakes on our way,” says Farhat Farooq, a 10th class student at High School Trikanjan

Farhat also highlights the issue of cross-border shelling. “Since the Boniyar range is surrounded by the LoC, there is always a high risk of cross-border firing and shelling. Our parents are always worried about our security,” he says.

He said that most of the families in the village are poor and can’t afford to purchase a smart phone. “Authorities can help us out,” he said.

No classes in rains, snow

Another student Hayat Rasool, 14, says that no classes are conducted during rains and snow. “The trek remains muddy and slippery making walking difficult for us. It isn’t possible to climb in 6-7 feet of snow,” he says.

Sharing last year’s experience, Hayat says, “Students had to carry the snow removal tools with them to clear the snow and sit on the ground for the online classes.”


Defunct mobile tower

Locals in the village are up in arms against the authorities for failing to set up mobile connectivity there. Indiatimes learnt that Reliance Jio had installed its mobile tower in October last year but is yet to be made operational. “Installation of mobile phones in the village brought happiness on the faces of the residents hoping that we too will be connected to the rest of the world. Later, everything fell flat,” says Ghulam Mohammad, 70, a local resident.

Dudran – a village falling some 15 kms from Boniyar tehsil headquarters and having over 2,000 households is craving for basic amenities. “There is no ration store, health centre, public toilets and proper schools. While 5-6 feet of snow causes closure of surface link for months and electricity disruption also,” says Mohammad.


29 Uri villages without mobile network connectivity

In March, then Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Uri shot a letter to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Baramulla mentioning about over 29 villages falling in Uri and Boniyar sectors that are without mobile network connectivity. The list also mentions the names of the places and names of the cellular companies who have installed the towers.

“It is requested to kindly take up the matter with the concerned authority, so that the unconnected population is covered and inconvenience to the general public on this account are reduced at earliest,” reads the letter, a copy of which is with Indiatimes.

Recently, a couple of videos from Kamalkote, Uri went viral wherein people mostly children were appealing to Lieutenant Governor to ensure mobile connectivity in the area so that children avail the benefits of online classes.


What Do Officials Say?

The newly posted SDM Uri Harvinder Singh said that he will look into the matter.

However, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Baramulla Mohd Ahsan Mir said that they have already taken up the matter with the cellular companies. “They are working over it and have ensured better mobile connectivity,” he said.




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