Kargil: Villayat Ali, with some rough books, and a mobile phone travels three to four kilometers daily on foot from his home in Majadass towards the national highway to get access to internet connectivity. His village Karkit is not connected with telecom service yet. Internet access is not a hobby or fun for him, but a genuine need to attend his college classes on Zoom Application amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.
Villayat is pursuing graduation with a major in Natural Science at Degree College Kargil, and due to the COVID-19 emergency, his college classes have been suspended and relied only on online learning. Across District Kargil, classes in both schools and colleges have shifted to online learning considering the threat of the COVID pandemic. However, the unon-availability of internet connectivity at the whole Karkit village has failed hundreds of other students in Villayat’s village.
Gulzana Banoo, a female student, also chases 4-5 kilometers daily from Budgam to the highway to attend her classes. She is pursuing B.Sc from Degree College Kargil and her teachers take online classes daily. Unlike boys, a walk for such a long distance is not easy for Gulzana and her female colleagues. Due to the lockdown movement of vehicles is also not allowed in the district.
Karkit village with a total population of around 4000 is comprised of four Modas named Budgam, Majadass, Khunda, and Haral. From these adjacent areas, around 50 other students in the age group of 12-25 including female students also up-down daily from home to the highway to attend their online classes.
Sitting below the sky, sometimes in harsh sunlight itself is trouble and disturbance to the students while attending their classes. The appearance of the mobile screen also reduces by the direct sunlight and the noise created by running vehicles on the highway cause disturbance to the students. Their suffering is also added by the miss of lunch as many of them have to stay for long due to continuous classes.
Despite tolerating all the hardship, even at the internet site, the internet service is not regular but fluctuating, said another student named Muzaffar Hussain. Muzaffar is preparing for competitive exams and has to attend online classes daily. In absence of the internet, he does not get access to both his classes and reading materials.
Living in the border village of Karkit in Kargil District, the students have no internet facility. The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) service installed in another village sometimes gives a poor signal on high altitudes like windows and rooftops. Like Karkit, other villages near the border like Kaksar, Latoo, and Hundurman also have no telecom facility and internet access.
The students from Karkit village explained that many students who study in colleges and universities outside Ladakh are also at home. They also suffer for their class. In addition, they do not get instant updates regarding their classes, assignments, admission forms, examinations, and recruitments. Life without the internet in this age of information and competition is unthinkable, said a student.
As told by the students, the local administration has already sanctioned a mobile tower for the village but the army has not accorded a No Objection Certificate (NOC) due to security hypothesis in the border area.
In this regard, the Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC Kargil Feroz Ahmad Khan after receiving a representation from Councillor Chuliskamboo Constituency had written a letter to the Core Commander HQ 14 Core in June 2020 requesting to issue the NOC for installation of an Airtel tower. The development of this letter is not known, but the issue has not resolved yet.
The students have formed an ad-hoc group to collectively raise their concern to the higher authorities in the district and at the Union Territory level. Muzaffar being a member of the group said that they are seeking an appointment with the Member Parliament from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal as he is on a five days long tour to Kargil District.
In the first place, the students want the administration to get an NOC for the installation of the mobile tower. In its absence, the students want the administration to work out an alternative solution to provide them access to uninterrupted internet service. (KNT)