THE decrepit, dimly-lit panchayat office in Nyala is a revelation. Farmers huddle in a corner sipping tea, children play around and village elders walk in, goats in tow, to meet the sarpanch only to be told that the village headman is available only during a crisis. There is also a Pentium III Dell computer lying defunct because a goat chewed one of its plugs and a prankster tore off a wire.
What's happening? After all, this is the same dusty hamlet that shot to fame last March when US President Bill Clinton visited it and interacted with its residents for about 90 minutes. Nyala was hyped in Delhi as a model village: uninterrupted electricity, clean roads, hospitals, schools—and villagers interested in e-learning, e-business, the works.
It's nothing of that sort. Look at the village's only girls' school. Here, students wash sand off the floor and cracked blackboards with water drawn from a rusty tubewell located a mile away before they can sit on barren floors to attend classes. Giving them company in the blistering heat are five Dell computers gifted by usaid. Two have been unpacked and are on display for students to gape at. The rest are dumped in a store room-cum-kitchen.
Why didn't the school use the computers? Well, Nyala gets only three hours of electricity every day, you see. Worse, there's not a single computer-trained person in the village. Quips a villager: "Clinton gayo, computer gayo, sab gayo (Clinton went, so did the computers and everything else)!"
Mohini Devi, who runs a local cooperative bank for women in the village, says the plight of the girls' school exposes Nyala's fraud. The school was elevated as a secondary one following Clinton's visit and donation of computers. But it does not have qualified teachers. It managed a donation of Rs 25,000 from the villagers to fix power transmission poles after authorities in Jaipur refused. Another Rs 8,000 was raised for the wire connection and switches. But now there's no money for furniture. "Where will they keep the computers? Where will the students sit?" she wonders. The school has only six chairs, currently used by teachers. Moral of the story: hard work, not hype, is the only way of taking infotech to grassroots.
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