Citing poor internet connectivity, people coming under Kudaruru Zilla Panchayat in Sagar taluk of Karnataka have launched a ‘No Network, No Voting’ campaign. They have resolved to boycott the coming zilla and taluk panchayat elections demanding better internet connectivity.
Students have to walk long distances in search of vantage positions with good internet connectivity to attend online classes, braving heavy rains. The area has a population of over 14,000 people, including 1,000 students. As repeated appeals to elected representatives and the officers concerned did not yield any result, the people have formed a committee to highlight their demand. Kattinakaru-Karani Tower Horata Samiti, the committee, consists of people residing in the villages Kattinakaru and Karani villages.
While villagers boycotting polls for better roads or power is not uncommon, the latest demand reflects the increasing dependence on net connectivity in rural areas post-pandemic.
“Children are forced to attend online classes sitting in places far away from their residence. Sometimes, even after walking for a long distance, one ends up getting only a patchy network. Besides schools, we have government offices, hospitals and other government establishments. All the staff members are facing difficulty in accessing the internet,” says Raja Naik Hemde, a member of the committee.
The residents appealed to elected representatives ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls for increase in the number of BSNL towers.
“We were hopeful that they would fulfil our demand. But, they did not. Now, the dependence on internet connectivity has increased following the lockdown and online classes. The Karnataka government has admitted that 50% of students do not get access to the internet. Yet, they are conducting online classes,” Hemde says.
The representatives of the committee are planning to canvass support for a jatha (rally) soon to highlight their demandssue.
Tumari Gram Panchayat, which is part of Kudaruru ZP, was declared a ‘digital village’ in 2018. However, even today the network is patchy in the village limits.
G.T. Satyanarayana, former president of Tumari Gram panchayat, said Lok Sabha member B.Y. Raghavendra, who attended the programme to inaugurate the digital village, had promised BSNL towers in the panchayat limits. “His promise has not been fulfilled. We are with the struggle committee, which has given a call for boycotting the elections. I hope elected representatives and the officers concerned respond to our demand,” he said.