A village called Baag in Himachal Pradesh’s Shimla district didn’t have any cellular reception until 1 January 2022.
But now it does thanks to the efforts of Tejasvi Chauhan, a Prime Minister’s Research Fellow at the IIT-Bombay.
The arrival of the telecom tower did not only change the face of Baag but also of all the adjoining gram panchayats as well, including Jodna.
As a child of a healthcare worker and ex-serviceman (now farmer), Tejasvi recalls spending a couple of months during his winter holidays in Baag.
As far as he remembers, the lack of telecom connectivity had always bothered his village.
But its effects became prominent during the lockdown.
He realised that school education suffered as children couldn’t attend online classes. Obtaining urgent medical assistance was also not possible because of network issues.
He resolved to come up with a solution.
Soon, Tejasvi stumbled upon academic papers discussing low-cost remote communication by Professor Rajkumar Pant from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at IIT-Bombay and wrote to him.
Prof Pant put him in touch with Sagar Sharma, an IIT-Bombay graduate who currently works at the Indian Semiconductor Mission.He suggested Tejasvi write a letter detailing the problem and get it signed by the Panchayat Pradhan, then by his MLA and Member of Parliament (MP).
All this time, Tejasvi independently tried contacting various officers at a government-owned telecom operator.
“All of them told me that we already had a tower nearby,” says Tejasvi, adding that he discovered that a ridge line restricted access to the network.
A few months after sending the letter, Mohan Lal, an officer with the ministry’s Shimla office, visited Baag to examine the situation and surveyed the area.
He told Tejasvi that the Union government has a fund specifically for these situations called Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
Sometime in the first quarter of 2021, a survey was conducted to find appropriate land for the construction of a telecom tower, following which construction began.
The construction process took a couple of months longer than expected due to the poor condition of the roads and frequent landslides.
The tower construction was completed in December 2021, leading to a noticeable transformation of the village.
“Earlier I wouldn’t see young people from my village staying in Baag for extended periods. They would go to nearby towns due to the lack of internet connectivity. This will change now,” he notes.