While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is globally pitching for a ‘Digital India’, a village in Bijnor is still struggling to get access to basic education. Ninety per cent of the locals in the village are illiterate, hence unable to shake off ‘anpadh gaon’ tag.
The village, Icchawala, has 700 registered voters and a population of 1400. Situated on the banks of Ganga at the border of Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar and Haridwar districts, it is a Muslim-majority village.
To get to Icchawala from Bijnor city, one has to cross the river by boat. There is no school in the village and the only two boys to have studied up to class VIII, who now live away from the village in order to get the higher education.
Mohammed Akhtar, the village pradhan, said:
“Nobody remembers anybody in living memory who could properly read or write. I have been the pradhan here for the last 15 years and not much has changed. We still don’t have proper roads, a hospital or even a school.”
What is even worse is that girls in the village have never seen a school. “Girls never get the chance to go to school. None of us have ever gone to school. Only 10% villagers can just write their names in Urdu,” said Akhtar.
For a task as simple as getting a letter read, dealing with important documents or even saving contacts on their mobile phones, residents have to go to neighbouring villages.
According to Akhtar, around 10-15 people in the village have bought mobile phones recently. He says:
“Now, these people have to go to neighbouring villages and seek help for saving contacts on their phones. And we don’t save contacts under their names. Instead, we use them as symbols. For example, I save my friend’s number as ‘A’ and relative’s as ‘AA’.”
More than anything, villagers want to get rid of the embarrassing tag that the village has got over the years.
Citing that population of the village is very small due to which it could not be picked under the Aadarsh Gram Yojana, Bijnor MP Bharatendra Singh said:
“I am aware of the problems faced by the village and I have even sent a letter to the education department in this regard. I will definitely follow up what action the department takes to improve the situation of villagers.”
Assistant basic shiksha adhikary (ABSA) Ajay Kumar said that they have sent a group of teachers to the village last year.
“However, it is difficult to get to the village, which is cut off from the district during monsoons,” he added.