Seated on his charpoy, 52-year-old Narendra Kumar Mavi is figuring out his grandson’s iPad. To his left is Dhani, chewing its cud in a happy froth. “See what I’m doing? I’m finding out the best price for our wheat produce,” he tells Dhani, his two-year-old buffalo.
It’s like any ordinary village. Buffaloes stand tied to posts in backyards. Tractors, sings of farm wealth, line the porches. Old men bask in the afternoon sun smoking hookah.
Eight kilometres away in Delhi, the plan to make the capital city a WiFi zone is still in the works, the chief minister having said that the plan will take another year. However, for the village of Tilla Shahbazpur, the idea couldn’t wait that long.
A month ago, its residents pooled Rs 18 lakh to create a WiFi zone across the village that’s spread over 2.5 sq km. All this, with no government assistance.
Village Pradhan Ishvar Mavi tells Newsline that during the recent elections in Delhi, he heard Arvind Kejriwal announce the WiFi project for the city. “I discussed that with the village youth and they insisted on installing WiFi here. In no time, the telecom company to implement this project had been hired and a tower installed in our backyard. Now the 2,700 mobile internet users in our village could benefit from this service,” he says.
The installation was done by Grads Network Ltd’s in collaboration with ANI Networks. Rajeev, director of ANI Networks, said, “We usually focus on cities and this was one-of-a-kind project. We are very proud of it.”
Dinesh Kumar, an engineer from Grads Network, said, “The connection is only for mobile internet users for now. It can also be accessed on laptops and computers. As of now, 120 residents have connections and access to WiFi. But 10 houses have already approached us requesting their entire premises be made WiFi-enabled.”
“For the first one month, the usage will be free of cost so that villagers can get used to the technology. Then we will charge Rs 200 for 5 GB of data,” Kumar said, adding that 30 boosters have been installed for users in the narrow lanes where connection wasn’t available.
The connection is named after Pradhan Mavi’s mother Kiran Devi. As one enters the village, with WiFi settings on, kiran-wi-fizone@9654453438 pops up as an available network.
Access to the network is allowed only to those registered. For the connection, according to Kumar, one needs to have proper identification documents registered with the company, following which an individual device will be attached to the server.
“If the device is changed, one will lose access to the connection,” he said.
But constant reference to the fact that his is a village upsets Mavi. “It’s a village because it looks like one. But we have enough primary and junior schools in the area. We have a BEd college and senior secondary schools, too,” he says.
Mavi says he does not understand what Kejriwal’s government is waiting for. “We had an idea and we implemented it. All you need is the will to do something,” he says.
Speaking to Newsline, district magistrate of Ghaziabad, Vimal Kumar Sharma, said, “It’s very good to see an initiative of this kind being taken by a village. I will speak to the pradhan so that we can replicate this across villages.”
Not far off, as Narendra Mavi adjusts his thin-rimmed gold-colored spectacles, he is joined by his nephew Kunal, a 22-year-old pursuing his BCom from Shyamlal College, University of Delhi. “I can show you something more interesting,” he says while showing his uncle a satellite image of the village on Google Maps. “Where is my house,” Mavi asks. “Here,” says Kunal as he promptly zooms in the screen view.
Amazed, Mavi asks, “Ab jo mein tumse baat kar raha hoon, woh bhi dikh raha hai kya ispe (Is you and I talking also visible on this)? He is only joking.