A remote village in Latur district in Maharashtra has become the first such village to have a free Wi-Fi connection, bringing relief especially to students who are now hoping to attend online classes without worrying about network issues.
Block Development Officer (BDO) Manoj Raut said unnecessary sites are blocked while giving free internet access.
"This initiative is part of the 'Sundar Maza Gav' (My Beautiful Village) programme proposed by divisional commissioner Sunil Kendrekar and BaLA (Building as Learning Aid) initiative of Zilla Parishad CEO Abhinav Goyal which is aimed at developing the village as a smart model village," Mr Raut said.
Sarita Yalmate, a resident of Nagtirthwadi village with a population of 552, told PTI that homemakers like her had no option earlier but to depend on their husbands to access the internet using hotspots.
"Now, housewives need not have to wait for their husbands as the Gram Panchayat has provided free Wi-Fi connection. This is the first step in realising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India dream. All villagers are happy to get internet now," she said.
Among other initiatives, 12 sound speakers were installed across the village to relay religious songs and prayers every morning. Besides, news bulletins are broadcast every morning and evening. This facility is also used to give some important instructions to villagers, officials said.
"In a bid to boost the annual Rs 3 lakh income of the Gram Panchayat, 220 tamarind trees were planted in the barren land which could give Rs 8 to 10 lakh income in future. The village had participated in a contest organised by the Pani Foundation in 2017 and won a prize of Rs 5 lakh," they said.
Also to protect the environment, 101 women planted 101 banyan saplings around these tamarind trees on the occasion of 'Vat Poornima'.
"Each banyan sapling is bound with nest and has the nameplate of the woman who planted it. These trees and saplings are watered using public wells. The Gram Panchayat provides 24-hour drinking water to all villagers through a tap water system. The village is completely defecation free. It had won the 'Nirmal Gram Puraskar' in 2006 given by former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam," the BDO said.
He said the Gram Panchayat has decided to make all the transactions paperless from September 11.
All the 28 students of the ZP primary school in the village were recently distributed blazers and neckties as school uniforms along with school bags with their photos printed on them, which was a private initiative, he said.
This village was adopted by Maharashtra BJP secretary Arvind Patil Nilangekar.
"Due to free Wi-Fi, we can now attend online classes regularly overcoming network issues. Now I don't want to wait for my father for accessing the internet as the Gram Panchayat provides free internet," said Akshata Shingade, a class 8 student.
Tukaram Yalmate, a farmer, said, “We feel that our village has entered a virtual world. All the facilities provided by the Gram Panchayat have benefited students. People are coming together due to these facilities. At least three times, our GP was elected unopposed to avoid groupism. At least 70 to 80 students from the village have got jobs and are working sincerely at various places, including one in a foreign country".
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