On June 4, Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal had to climb a tree in Dholia village, 85 km from Bikaner, to make a phone call to a medical officer on behalf of the villagers. A week later, Lekhram Godara, sarpanch of Udrasar panchayat, under which Dholia village falls, says poor mobile connectivity is one of the many problems villagers face. Godara lives in Dholia.
1 How did the minister end up in that situation?
When the minister asked us about our problems, we told him to ask the chief medical and health officer (CMHO) to appoint a nurse at our medical centre. He asked his assistant to call the CMHO, but there was no mobile network. So we suggested the only thing we knew. But the minister said he wouldn’t climb a tree just like that, so we got him a ladder. It was strange to see a minister climb a tree, but at least he got to experience the problems we face everyday.
2 How do other government officials function when they come here?
This was the first time someone that high-up was visiting our village. Government officials barely visit here. There is no network here, neither of BSNL nor of any private operator. The nearest cellphone tower is in Udrasar, 9 km away.
3 So do villagers climb trees to makes calls?
Yes, that’s what we we do everyday. Either climb a tree, or go to the terrace of someone’s house. And if it’s not too hot, we climb sand dunes. That usually works.
4 Did the minister promise to do something about the problem?
Yes, he assured us that he would get a mobile tower installed here within three months.
5 What are the other problems villagers face?
There are various issues. Our health centre has no ANM (auxiliary nurse midwife). That was the matter the minister was trying to solve. Besides, power cuts are a huge problem. In the peak of summer, we face power cuts of 15-20 hours. And then, we have only one school till Class 8, with just three teachers.