KANNUR: Climbing trees is now a part of their daily routine. The students in Panniyode tribal colony in Kannur district have been taking the trip into the forest since June to attend virtual classes. Every day, they travel deep into the forest and climb atop temporary tree houses set up by their parents to get internet connectivity. But things turned sour on Thursday as Ananthu Babu, 17, fell from the tree which he had climbed to check Plus I allotment. The incident took place around noon as the branch he had grabbed broke, and he fell from a height of 10m onto the rocks below.
The incident has brought to light the plight of students struggling to attend virtual classes in places with poor connectivity. “We have been knocking on the doors of officials since June,” said PR Usha, Ananthu’s mother. “We are lucky that my son is still alive,” she said.
“There are around 70 students in the colony, from Classes 1 to Plus II. We submitted a representation signed by the students to the district collector. The media too has highlighted the plight of the students here.”
The family’s financial condition is set to worsen as Suresh, Ananthu’s father, a daily wage worker, will not be able to work for the next two weeks. But they have received one thing in abundance - promises. The authorities concerned, including Local Self-Government Minister M V Govindan, have said that all issues regarding net connectivity would be resolved quickly. “Internet connectivity will be made available to all students in the district with the support of BSNL,” the minister had said on June 12.
Meanwhile, District Collector T V Subhash said the work to ensure connectivity in tribal colonies is progressing. “There are 137 colonies where internet connectivity has to be made available. Of these, we have been able to set up connectivity in 66 colonies. Soon, the remaining colonies too will be covered,” he said. District Panchayat President P P Divya said Rs 30 lakh has been set aside to set up free wi-fi connection in such colonies, stressing that work is progressing.
At the same time, Panniyode tribal colony residents said no official has so far visited the colony to have a look at the situation. “Whenever we give a representation, the people concerned would tell us that everything would be alright soon. We are quite familiar with such false promises now,” said Preetha Sajeevan. Collector Subhash said the administration has taken the matter up with telecom companies but they have not been able to resolve the issue completely. “We are trying all options so that such things are not repeated,” he said.
Besides Panniyode, which is in the Chittaripparamba panchayat, many areas under the panchayats of Chapparappadavu, Udayagiri, Pariyaram, Kolayad, Kottiyur, Kelakam and Ulickal are facing the problem. The Kannavam forest under Patyam panchayat and the Aralam farm rehabilitation zone too have connectivity issues. The State Human Rights Commission has registered a case, directing the collector to file a report within 15 days.
Education Minister V Sivankutty intervenes
In the wake of the incident in Kannur where a teenage tribal boy suffered severe injuries after he fell from a tree that he had climbed for better mobile internet coverage, General Education Minister V Sivankutty spoke to the boy’s parents and enquired about his condition. The minister also called up the district collector and inquired about the status of mobile coverage in remote areas.
The Kannur district collector informed the minister that as many as 137 areas face network coverage issues. The collector informed the minister that network issues in 71 areas have been rectified.
P Ananthu Babu, who hails from Panniyode tribal colony, had reportedly climbed the tree for better mobile internet coverage to check his Plus-I allotment status online. Sivankutty also enquired about the condition of the student from the superintendent of Pariyaram MCH. The superintendent informed the minister that best treatment was being provided to the student.