Pradeep Pattanayak

At a time when telecom companies are launching 5G services in different towns in Odisha, people in rural pockets are still grappling with poor network service. 

Once, Swabhiman Anchal of Chitrakonda block in Malkangiri district was known as a Maoist citadel. Time has changed and the picture of this area, also known as the cut-off area, has changed for the better. Roads have been laid out and there is an electricity facility as well. 

But when it comes to network facilities, Panchayats like Ralegada, Dhuliputa, Gajalamamudi, Kurumanura and Papulur are still lagging far behind. Scenes like people talking on mobile phones while sitting in trees or on a hilltop are common here. Some can even be spotted covering miles to get network to receive or make a call. 

“Many developmental works have taken place in our village. But, to make a call, we have to trek a hill,” said Sindhu, a Ralegada resident. 

“Ralegada, Dhuliputa, Gajalamamudi, Kurumanura and Papulur Panchayats are yet to get mobile network facility. The villagers face the real ordeal when they have to contact an ambulance to shift a patient or pregnant woman,” informed Chitrakonda block chairperson Rajeswari Khila. 

One can come across similar pictures in Narayanpatna block in Koraput district. A resident of this block, P Nitin Subuddhi works for a private company and now he is working from home. But here, he is having trouble of his lifetime to get internet access. As the internet service is poor at home, every day he comes to a tree, three kilometers away from his house, and sitting under it, he does his office work.  

“Technologies have advanced rapidly. But the pathetic is that I have to come to a tree to do my office work under it. My problem at night can be understood,” rued Subuddhi. 

Due to poor internet service, the banks are also not able to deliver proper service. 

“For the last two days, I have been visiting the bank to withdraw money. But the bank officials are asking me to go home, citing internet failure,” rued P Laxmi, a bank customer. 

If the information shared by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is anything to go by, the telecom density in Odisha is 76.09. This means, 23 percent people of the State are still deprived of telecom facilities. Notably, the national telecom density stands at 84.52 percent. 

“There are many such remote places in the State that don’t have a mobile tower. Apart from focusing on 5G and 6G, the government should also take steps so that people in remote areas enjoy mobile service,” said Prashant Sahu, telecom expert.