Welcome to Gual Pahari. Barely 12 kilometers from Gurgaon, the village is the IT hub’s poor cousin by a thousand miles — there’s no electricity, water or doctors here. And the lone local school has classes only up to eight.
With a little help from the sun and the Internet, however, the gears of development have finally started moving here. The village’s local ‘knowledge centre’, set up just a week ago, is now trying to bring the global village to this nondescript Haryana hamlet. The centre is run by local resident Saroj Kumar and guided by The Energy Research Institute (TERI).
“I wanted to help the children and usher in development here,” says Kumar, as he points to the computer terminal linked to a taut Internet connection and a white printer. Most girls, he says, drop out of the local school after Class VIII. “I wanted to bring education to them, to help them set up handicraft units so that they can hold their own place.”
But there was a problem: the erratic electricity supply, with daily outages of between eight and ten hours. Even when electricity was on show, Kumar says the voltage just wasn’t enough to power a computer, or charge a UPS. The solution? “Solverter,” says Arvind Narayan, research associate at the Rural Informational Communications Technology in TERI. “It charges through solar cells and grid supply, if and when that is available.”
After the machine got running, the computer centre did not go the e-governance way. Instead, it became a hub for computer education, information on agriculture, and use of solar power. “The focus is not on government services but on providing knowledge and rural development — on areas of energy, water, farming, medicine,” says Gaurav Chakraverty, research associate at TERI.
Yet, it’s not all altruistic. Gual Pahari is surrounded by area marked for four Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Kumar, the entrepreneur, wants to use the centre to groom the village youth so that they can gain from the IT boom. “At present they can only aspire to be drivers, milkmen or guards,” he says. “But with computer education, and after they are comfortable with the Internet and English, they can become global citizens.
“They can be the sahibs inside those air-conditioned offices.”
To reach that point, Kumar has employed Ashok Yadav, a final-year BCA student from nearby Wazirabad, to teach the village children the basics of computers and the Internet. “It’s a double advantage for me,” Yadav says. “I can teach the students, explain the uses of solar power and, in free time use the computer to study.”
Just eight days into operation, the enthusiasm at the centre is palpable. As 16-year-old Sachin boils tea for people at the centre, a mere mention of the word ‘computer’ brings a smile to his face: “I know what a monitor, keyboard and a mouse is. I can type now.”
The date with the computer has started, the gateways of the Internet is waiting.