By Sharon Thambala
With the unexpected advent of online classes for students post the Covid pandemic, some of them from a few villages in Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district could not easily connect to the virtual lessons, forcing them to climb small hills to catch the signal.
Students from Perla, Bandihole, Hosathota, Boodudamakki, Shibaje, Belthangady and others in the coastal district are climbing hills for internet connection.
Located in South Canara area, bound by the Arabian Sea in the west and Western Ghats in the east, Uduipi district in the north and Kerala state in the south, Dakshina Kannada is an education hub.
In fact, falling under Mangaluru forest circle, Belthangady is one of the nine ranges of Kudremukh wildlife division which is subdivided into Kudremukh and Siddapura wildlife subdivisions.
Likewise, forests in the Kudremukh National Park are primarily evergreen to semi-evergreen, located at an altitude of above 1,000 m with extensive and rolling grasslands, surrounding pockets of Shola forest in valleys and depressions.
With such a geography and terrain, mobile signal is not always strong and uniform in these villages.
As a result, some students in the district’s peripheral villages bordering the Western Ghats are facing mobile phone internet connection forcing them to scale the peaks for signal.
Despite the signal issue in these times when a lot of life is depending on the virtual world for transactions, the district authorities did not receive any complaint.
“We have not received any complaint from anybody about the lack of mobile internet connection,” told newly arrived Deputy Commissioner K. V. Rajendra to IANS.
Following a local report and some media enquiries on the issue, the senior officer entrusted his subordinates to look into the matter.
Yathish Ullal, Assistant Commissioner of Puttur, managed to connect with the students from the villages and offered them a solution or two, after learning about the issue only on Monday.
“These are all peripheral villages. Dakshina Kannada has an area overlapping with the Western Ghats. This Shibaje village is in the core of the Western Ghats. Meriar, Shibaje, Charmadi, all these villages come in the boundaries, obviously, there is a network issue,” observed Ullal.
As a solution, he suggested the students to avail internet facility at the village gram panchayats, which are connected by the Digital India broadband connection.
However, the students were not very keen on availing the facility.
“Since it is just for only two hours a day for online classes, they are not taking up these facilities. They don’t want to move out of their comfort zone. It is their backyard, doesn’t mean it is some forest. It is not some remote area, he said.”
According to the assistant commissioner, Belthangady and Shibaje village have a hilly landscape where the villagers own some estates.
As they are in their own properties, they are going to the top of those hillocks for mobile internet connection.
Incidentally, even after contacting, the students did not even complain and on the contrary they were happy to climb the hills and told the officer that it was not a problem for them.
The second solution Ullal offered the students was to come to a nearby town area where they could sit in a school to receive internet connection to attend their classes.
“They are not interested. They were telling we are happy here, we are enjoying, it is a nice facility for us, why should we be worried about it,” he pointed out.
Ullal said the students were exhibiting an adventurous spirit and enjoying the process of climbing the hilltops.
Another alternative he suggested the students was to get a Reliance Jio 4G connection.
“Reliance Jio is giving good service in all the area. We have told them (students) to try to get Jio connection. It is giving good network,” he said.
However, he highlighted that if many people complain about the bad signal, the district administration will definitely talk to the telecom service providers to strengthen their services.
Though that route can be explored, Ullal said nothing would happen in the next 3-4 months as all these villages are peripherally located and overlap into multiple authorities such as the forest department, wildlife areas and others.
“Even if permission is given, I don’t think anything will happen in the next 3-4 months. It will take all labour, material and everything to materialize,” he said.
Despite all these processes, he reiterated that the gram panchayats offering wi-fi signal could be the best solution.
“We will ask them to share it with the students. We are asking all the gram panchayats to try out this. Will start this from Shibaje. It is not yet communicated, but I have consulted a few of the gram panchayats,” said Ullal.
The gram panchayats have agreed to share the Digital Indian broadband connection with the needy students.
Dakshina Kannada is 347 away from Bengaluru by the coast. Mangaluru, its district headquarters served as trading post for several centuries.
It was ruled by the Alups and the Vijayanagara dynasty but the Portuguese had the strongest influence who came in the 15th century.
Later, the district fell into the hands of Haider Ali to become the chief port of Mysuru, and after the fall of Tipu Sultan, it went into the British hands.
(Sharon Thambala can be contacted at email@example.com)