Dozens of students from different villages, including Shimsha and Karkit in Drass, have to travel three kilometers daily to a hill along the Srinagar-Leh national highway to ensure their presence in the virtual classrooms due to the closure of schools in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
A video of one such group from Shimsha is making the rounds on social media with students, both girls and boys, seen sitting on a roadside gravel hill busy attending their classes under the open sky.
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“Unfortunately, we do not have internet connectivity in our village despite repeated requests for the facility and had to foot the 3 kilometre distance from our home to attend the online class,” one of the students said.
Another student said they have selected the location as “we do not want to go to a nearby village which is one kilometre further ahead due to the threat of the pandemic.”
A girl said they are facing a lot of problems while travelling to and fro the place but have no other choice.
According to officials, Ladakh is connected to Srinagar with a single cable line at present and interruption occurs sometimes due to heavy traffic of users.
“For smooth and uninterrupted connectivity, the work on the VTL PGCIL fibre cable from Srinagar side is going on. Around 80 per cent of the laying work of the optical fibre cable has already been completed, while the remaining 20 per cent will be completed within the period of three to four months,” an official of BSNL said.
He said the installation of base transceiver stations at Latoo and Kaksar will also be completed soon.
A base transceiver station is a telecom equipment used to facilitate wireless communication between a mobile device and the cellular operator network.
The official further said there are 45 functional towers of BSNL in the district, out of which seven are under the Army’s jurisdiction.
An official of Jio Telecom service said there are 37 functioning towers of the company in the district, while seven more towers will be completed soon.
“All the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) sites would be completed by July 25. Besides, sites have been identified to install more towers which will be completed soon to increase the speed of internet in Kargil town and adjoining areas,” he said.
The officials said all possible measures are being taken to provide smooth mobile and internet services to the consumers while work on strengthening the infrastructure by way of installation of mobile towers at different locations is being carried out.
Ladakh Member of Parliament Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, who was on a five-day visit to Kargil, asked the telecom operators to contact him for any hindrance with installation of towers, especially in border areas, where no objection certificate is required from the Army.
“The telecom operators should specify the issue with proper reasons and bring the same into his notice,” the BJP leader said during a joint meeting with officers and telecom operators to review the status of telecommunication services being provided to users and telecom infrastructure development works in the district.
The Lok Sabha MP assured that he would take up such issues personally with the authorities concerned.
Namgyal also stressed that the installation of towers in public areas should not halt due to land issues, and the technical feasibility should be the only priority to set up a tower.
“In case any public hindrance occurs, the issue must be brought to the notice of the District Magistrate, Kargil,” he said while chairing a joint meeting with officers and telecom operators.
Underlining the need to ensure mobile connectivity in all unconnected villages of Ladakh, the MP said complete support would be extended from his side to achieve this goal.
He also directed the officials concerned to transfer the available base transceiver stations to the villages where mobile connectivity has not reached yet.