• saumay garg

Kachchh Field visit report


(1-2 June 2019)

Saumay Garg

The field visit aimed to understand the network connectivity in the Kachchh region of Gujrat. Below is described different aspects of the field visit, including the interviews.

In the salt farm visited, there was only one family left, and rest had completed farming for the season (Oct – June), when they move to salt farms after the Navaratri festival, they take the essentials along, the remaining family mentioned that the spacing between temporary shelters was fixed – 500 m (due to allocation pattern of farmland, 5 pits per family). The salt farming community was well knit, and they often interacted with each other by either walking to their shelter or sometimes calling on mobile phone too. The boring procedure of the well for brine was inefficient due to the fact that the site of digging was utterly random, and they had to first dig around 40 feet before knowing about the presence of water – even the method of identifying the presence of water was not precise ( presence of a yellow sand would indicate presence of water underneath).

There were several temples in the desert (little rann of kachchh) even though construction is restricted in the reserved region. A Horn Antenna was also present in the Vachhraj Dada temple.

We visited the village of Kharghoda, which primarily houses Agariya families. Below are some of the interviews.

Laxmiben is a woman residing in the rail region of Kharaghoda village. She is very much into devotional work and doesn't enjoy television like her friends; She doesn't get time to properly engage in many spiritual activities as she has to take care of her grandchildren in the day and considers that to be a sort of devotion too. Also taking kids to prayer grounds is usually ineffective. She and her friends hold smaller meetings with the help of chants that are either sung or played on mobile. She doesn't know how to operate a mobile phone and doesn't get to use it much as there is only one smartphone in the household which remains with her working son in the day and with her grandkids in the evening. Additional strain on the eyes makes it difficult to get involved. However, she wishes to learn. She has a son who works in loading and unloading salt from trains, her other son works at railways, and her daughter suffers from a severe intellectual disability.

- Inability to operate mobile phones,

- Infrequent access to the device

- And physical limitations restrict mobile phone usage ( like eye strain etc.)

Rakesh is a 24-year-old man from Kharaghoda living with his parents who farm crops nearby and a sister who is married and is only visiting for a vacation. He has completed his 12 class education and had joined an arts college for around 1-2 month and then left. He studied in a private college; He stated that the private college certificate works only in the region/Gujrat and the government institute certificate works everywhere (the legitimacy of this is very doubtful). He wished to move to the city for a better life and hence wants to study. Saltwork, according to him, is physically intense, and one can't work after the age of 40-50 years, also as you grow old, you become slower and makes it harder to maintain the job. He used to own a smartphone which broke, and he didn't replace it as he used to waste time on WhatsApp and Messenger, now he uses a simple feature phone. When he had a smartphone, he used it to study too using youtube videos – either recommended or those uploaded by local tutors. Despite a year of constant study and three-month coaching he couldn't perform well in a test for head constable at the local police station (he stated that reasoning to be difficult and due to an unexpected change in exam pattern). He then began a job at a furniture shop and wishes to try again for the post of head constable. He sold his laptop to focus on studies to support the family financially. Several students rent a room of ‘Tatali' and study there in a group where they can get some help with education; he uses his friends' phone to watch lectures. Like most of the other families, they own a bike and can quickly get support from others in case of emergency. The smartphone was also a source of connecting with his friends (video calling).

- Smartphones are not usually the primary source of learning

- Older people have significantly lower mobile phone skills

Sushila is a resident of the Kharaghoda village; she lives with her husband and three kids. Sushila's brothers do salt farming, and her husband does the work of loading and unloading in a salt factory. Their son Rahul (5) will start schooling in grade I after summer. Their daughters Shanti (10) and Alka (7) both attend school in grades 5 and three respectively. Father of Sanjay (husband) used to work in salt farming, but he doesn't do it as the water has reduced, making salt harvesting harder. He did not use mobile much due to lack of education ( could read and write name) – the usage is usually restricted to entertainment on youtube. His wife uses the internet for sewing, which also serves as a source of income during weddings when the demand increases. Rahul uses the phone frequently and is a good player of games; he didn't understand the structure of apps but instead used hit and try on different buttons in the app to get the desired result. The older girls are not allowed to use the smartphone to allow them to focus on studies. The applications installed on the device included Xender, facebook, etc.

- The children were well acquainted with the device but rarely used it for education

- It was a source of learning new skills (like sewing)

- File sharing, social media involvement existed in the community

An older man who was sitting alone in the temple complex (Kharaghoda) – some 20 meters away from the rest of the group that was seated on the temple steps. The old men in the group cited it to be his nature but on asking he mentioned that he broke his leg in the salt field four years ago and had difficulty walking since, that is why he didn't sit with the group as he couldn't walk much. Also, he couldn't climb the stairs. Also, since farming is a major occupation for the older villagers (of which he couldn't be apart of due to his physical limitations), he is secluded from the social circle. Further, he has no immediate family member and does his chores alone. When the group assembled around him for discussion, he seemed happy probably due to his social inclusion.

- Physical disability can be socially isolating

The network issue was negligible in the main village, several mobile towers existed in and around Kharaghoda, allowing good 4G network connectivity. In the remote regions of the desert, there was a network issue but was not of major concern. The distribution of information, however, was not equal throughout, i.e. certain effective techniques that could assist their users were not known by all probably because

The medical treatment of the people living in Kharaghoda village depends on mainly two sources of treatment. One is the government clinic situated in a village situated 7 km away named ‘Patdi' which is more commonly used in cases where the treatment needs the doctor to be physically present (like a bone fracture). They also use the services of setu arogya (telemedicine service used mostly by the older people), they had been helped by them and sometimes financial support. This service truck/van goes to places in the village where a receiver is pre-installed and the doctor diagnoses via the internet, the medicines are prescribed using a number system with a unique association with drugs. They also provide small tests, this service, however, can't reach the remote areas due to the absence of any receiver or amplifier in between. The solution Ambubhai wanted was to have an antenna attached to the truck. The transport to Patdi is usually done using motor vehicles owned privately and public transport like a bus for the less affluent. The toilet facilities don't exist in general, and villagers defecate in the open.

Most of the children being schooled in the village went to the village Patdi which includes three private and one government school around 7-8 km away. Patdi is a bigger village with a greater amount of available goods and services ( like healthcare, vegetables, common goods, education, etc.).The travel time from village to Rann reduces the actual time spent by teachers and students in schools to 2-3 hours.

(Names in the above were altered for maintaining the subjects’ anonymity)

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