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What One Teacher Is Doing To Empower Citizens In Rural Sikkim

By Binod Bhattarai:

It is often said that information is a valuable resource like any other infrastructural facility. Information of any type is fundamental to any decision making process involved in our daily life. As lack of information may result in wrong decisions, availability of fewer options may lead to misleading conclusions. Information and awareness play a significant role in our daily, professional, personal and social life.

I am currently an assistant professor of Sociology at Sikkim Government College, Gyalshing. When I was a master’s student at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and a doctoral fellow at Pondicherry University, I was always keen and passionate to do something innovative to inspire people in a positive way. I always used to see little representation of people from the northeastern states in central universities, other institutes of national importance, central government funded schemes and jobs. Gradually, I realised that people in the rural areas and the hills do not get proper information about the university entrances and other opportunities. It is true that the government is trying its level best to develop the state. Various developmental schemes and employment drives have been launched to supplement the growth process of the state. However, we have failed to ensure that common people are able to grab such opportunities. It is not because people aren’t interested, but because of lack of information and awareness available to the large sections of the people living in the villages.

Due to lack of access to e-resources, people in the state of Sikkim lack information regarding various aspects of life like education, business and other day to day activities. People have to pay a huge cost as they lose out on many opportunities. The people living in village lack even the necessary information on something as important as education, in terms of opportunities available in various universities, various fellowships and programs/schemes which would have proved very beneficial for their career building.  Similarly, our farmers lack advanced technical knowledge and information regarding various advanced tactics of farming. It results in huge unaccounted losses as there is much lower productivity. Same is the story in other aspects of life. As a consequence of this huge information deficit, the opportunities available to the people have really narrowed down and resulted in the shrinkage of choices available to the people, particularly the youth.

Given the role of information in human resource development, we cannot afford to ignore it. With the advent of e-resources, all information is readily available on the internet. However, where we lack behind is in its delivery to people.

With the intention of minimising the gap in urban and rural India, we have started a Village Information Centre in 2014 at three villages in the remote Himalayan region of Sikkim. These three villages are Sudunlakha (Kopchey), Tareythang in East Sikkim and Daramdin in West Sikkim. The main aim behind starting such an information centre is to provide all the necessary information related to education in terms of opportunities available in various schools, colleges, universities, fellowships and job schemes. It also provides technical knowledge. Information on farming, various plans and policies of the government which could be beneficial for the general public. It is a micro-initiative initiated with the help of a Facebook page and a blog called Village Information Centre to spread out the information to the rural villages in Sikkim. With the help of the Village Information Centre, our main focus is on good governance which includes the issue of service delivery, empowerment, transparency, and accountability. If it is applied effectively in South Asian countries like India, it may enhance the practice of e-governance and its sustainability at the village level.

The author can be reached at bhattaraibinod3@gmail.com

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Image Source: Sukanto Debnath/ Flickr
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