Three students injured in lightning on top of Digisaru hill, in Odisha’s Kandhamal district

The students identified as Dhiren Digal, Pinku Mallick and Pancha Behera had trekked Digisaru hill near the village for mobile connectivity

October 06, 2022 10:43 am | Updated 08:59 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

Rain lashes on the coastal parts of eastern India due to the low-pressure format in the Bay of Bengal.

Rain lashes on the coastal parts of eastern India due to the low-pressure format in the Bay of Bengal. | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Three students, who trekked a hillock in search of mobile connectivity, were struck by lightning in Odisha’s Kandhamal district which came as a stark reminder as to how pronounced the connectivity gap was still on the ground particularly when India entered 5G era.

The incident happened at Mundagaon village under Chakapada block of Kandhamal on Wednesday afternoon (October 5). Students identified as Dhiren Digal, a student of XI, Pinku Mallick (Class X) and Pancha Behera (class VIII) had trekked Digisaru hill near the village for mobile connectivity.

Around this time, they faced thundershower. The three students were struck by lightning. They kept lying on the hill after losing consciousness. When students did not return home by evening, villagers went searching and found them in critical condition.

The three students, who were injured, were first admitted to Brahmanapad hospital and one of them was subsequently rushed to district headquarter hospital at Phulbani. All the three students were said to be out of danger. “Though we have a tower installed in the village recently, the internet connectivity could only be accessed on the hill,” said Jatin Digal, brother of an injured student.

This was not the only incident. Earlier, a tribal student in Padmapur block of Rayagada district had died when the boulder he was sitting on for online classes got displaced from the place last year. In 2015, a tribal couple in Pangalpadar village had gone to a hill-top near their village to chase mobile connectivity so that they could talk to their son over the phone. During this time, the couple was allegedly shot dead by security forces deployed in anti-naxal operation. Villagers face difficulties in calling ambulances at the time of health emergencies.

The lack of mobile connectivity had also become a poll issue during 2019 general- and Assembly elections and also in the rural- and urban body polls this year.

The lack of mobile connectivity was more pronounced during COVID-19 lockdowns during 2020 and 2021. Students had to walk several kilometres, climb trees and trek hills to get internet access. According to information furnished by Ministry of Communication in Lok Sabha, there were more than 25,000 villages in the country without mobile connectivity. Of the unconnected villages, one fourth (over 6,000 villages) was in Odisha. Mobile connectivity is particularly worse in districts such as Kandhamal, Rayagada, Koraput, Kalahandi and Malkangiri.

Though Union Minister of Communications and Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw had assured to set up 4,000 mobile towers across the State for ensuring access to internet connectivity, the problem remain unresolved in many villages.

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