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Jharkhand being one of India’s Poorest States aspires to be the country’s first Cashless State

The state government has decided that VAT would not be charged on smartphones priced at Rs 5,000

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A man holding credit card (representational Image), Pixabay

Ranchi, December 13, 2016: It’s one of India’s poorest states and yet aspires to be first in the country to go cashless — if one is to believe Chief Minister Raghubar Das.

However, given the state of power, internet connectivity and other related infrastructure in the state, the idea looks more like a pipedream than anything that can become a reality any time soon.

The state is also known for its difficult geographical terrain, with the majority of its 3.3 crore (2011 census) population living in rural areas — and that too below the poverty line.

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None of the telecom service providers in the state provide internet speeds of 2 MBPS despite the claims of providing speeds up to 5 MBPS. Be it private companies like Airtel, Vodafone or Aircel, or the state-run BSNL, they have all failed to provide high-speed internet services so far.

While Airtel and Reliance Jio have launched their 4G operations in the state, one wonders what miracles these services would provide given that 2G and 3G speeds are disgustingly slow, .

The number of mobile phone users in the state stands at 1.59 crore, but they suffer for want of good connectivity. Many of these users live in rural pockets and villages where the access to internet is negligible, to say the least.

To top it all, as of now only 1,427 panchayts in the state have access to broadband, while 4,459 panchayats do not have the broadband or internet facility — something that is almost a precondition for successful accomplishment of the Digital India initiative.

Lack of adequate power supply is also cited as one of the prime reasons for hindrance in internet connectivity in the state.

Since Independence in 1947 — Jharkhand was a part of Bihar and was hived off as a separate staste only in 2000 — power has reached only 38 lakh homes in the state and there are still 30 lakh unlit homes.

Coming to banks, of the 2,900 branches in the state, nearly 70 per cent are located in rural areas or smaller towns. They, of course, have core banking facilities but unavailability of internet, WiFi or broadband connectivity renders them as good as not being there at all.

An official of a leading state-run bank pointed out that connectivity was their biggest problem, because of which at least 30 per cent of the branches remain paralysed.

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“The dream of cashless Jharkhand would only be realised if internet connectivity improves in the state. On several occasions, this issue has been put before the Chief Minister,” a bank official told IANS.

Even in the state capital Ranchi, one can frequently find a ‘link fail’ board hung outside ATMs and bank counters, mocking at customers.

Another factor is that most of the app-based payment services work on Android-supported smartphones that are available with, and used only by, the youth in cities and urban pockets, but many beyond urban areas can’t afford such devices.

So, how will the state government first make Android-based phones available to the people and then train them in their use remains a question without a satisfactory answer.

With Jharkhand grossly unprepared to embrace the cashless concept, let alone becoming the first cashless state, the Chief Minister and his team should have first worked towards putting in place the basic requirements for this.

But, surprisngly though, Chief Minister Das has urged the people to contribute to make Jharkhand a cashless state by December-end. He also launched the “Cashless Jharkhand” campaign from the state capital, saying: “Small steps lead to big goals.”

He urged the people to make more and more use of IT, which would help curb corruption. A cashless economy would also help tackle terrorism and extremism, Das said.

The Chief Minister said: “In the entire world, digital transactions takes place and the people of Jharkhand should contribute to make it a cashless state.”

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He also urged every youth to train at least five people in carrying out cashless transactions.

In another key decision, the state government has decided that VAT would not be charged on smartphones priced at Rs 5,000 and also on debit/credit card swipes until March 31, 2017.

The VAT exemption of 5.5 per cent on smartphones and 14.5 per cent on PoS machines has been introduced to promote cashless transactions in the state. (IANS)

Next Story

Know How Football is Protecting Tribal Girls in Jharkhand from Poverty, Trafficking and Child Marriage

"I was all awkward wearing the sports gear, and afraid of people judging me," she reminisced

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"Football has changed my stand in the society and without it, I would have simply dropped out of school like many other girls in my village," she said. Wikimedia Commons

As an uneducated tribal woman, Tetri Devi, 51, has seen many struggles, but seeing her youngest child, Anshu Kacchap, scale heights in football and visit the UK to play an inter-school football tournament has brought alive dreams, hopes and the zeal to continue her fight against the naysayers. Girls like Anshu are breaking the mould and smashing the glass ceiling with football.

Tetri revealed that when Anshu started playing football, everyone in the community, including her husband, was against the idea. “A girl wearing shorts and spending time playing football was not only looked down upon but was fiercely opposed by many. I remember being stopped by villagers concerned about me allowing the girl to play football and being called out for being a bad mother,” she said, adding that every snide comment she ignored and every advice she didn’t heed was “worth the trouble”.

With her husband unemployed for the larger part of the year, Tetri earns a living for her family of six – among them four daughters, of whom Anshu is the youngest – by selling Hadiya, a locally brewed rice beer in the nearby haats (rural market) in Pahan Toli, a remote village on the outskirts of Ranchi. Football has given her and her daughter a reason to dream again.

Anshu has been associated with OSCAR (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) Foundation’s football training programme, which runs from Chari Huzir on the outskirts of Ranchi, for five years now. She has not only represented Jharkhand in national tournaments but has also been one of the eight girls from Jharkhand who played in a UK Schools Tour, OSCAR ‘Kick Like a Girl’ in October last year.

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Not only has she inspired her elder brother to resume education, but also many other children in her village to become a part of the change that football has initiated in her life. Wikimedia Commons

The transformation through football wasn’t an easy one for the 200-odd girls who have taken to the sport around Irba and Kanke. Social stigma aside, acute poverty and challenges like the lack of even a single square meal, looming threats of early marriage and absence of support from their families have been a problem for these tribal girls, living about 30 kilometres from Ranchi. Through all the struggle, football has been their tool against fear, one kick at a time.

Shital Toppo, a student of commerce at a local college, said she was in disbelief when she found out she would be going to Russia in 2018 to watch a FIFA World Cup match as a part of the Football for Hope Movement, a project of FIFA to promote football as a medium for development and growth. She said the first time she went on the field, she couldn’t even manage to kick the ball for the first week.

“I was all awkward wearing the sports gear, and afraid of people judging me,” she reminisced. But it wasn’t all bad for Toppo, who played a friendly match with other members of the delegation from all over the world. She even befriended a representative from Brazil, Barbara.

“Football has changed my stand in the society and without it, I would have simply dropped out of school like many other girls in my village,” she said. Not only has she inspired her elder brother to resume education, but also many other children in her village to become a part of the change that football has initiated in her life.

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Social stigma aside, acute poverty and challenges like the lack of even a single square meal, looming threats of early marriage and absence of support from their families have been a problem for these tribal girls. Pixabay

For Tinky Kumari, 16, like hundreds of young girls in the area, an early wedding was supposed to celebrate her passing the matriculation examinations. Her elder brother, a school dropout himself, forced her to work as a farm labourer but football became her weapon of protest.

“My brother didn’t hesitate to beat me up just to stop me from playing football,” she recalled. She said her trip to the UK was a turning point as now everyone in her family has finally stopped talking about marrying her off. With her parents’ support, she is now continuing her education.

The narrative of how football empowered these village girls is a story that never fails to inspire. Helena Tete, 53, has been mentoring the girls since the early days of the programme. She has been a witness to the story of these girls and how football has empowered them to become what they are.

She recalled that when the training started in 2013, the girls taking part in the training were scared and hesitant. Their families were reluctant as they didn’t see a future in sports for them, she said. “Today, every time they play a national tournament or win a match, it is such a proud moment for us,” she added.

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The transformation through football wasn’t an easy one for the 200-odd girls who have taken to the sport around Irba and Kanke. Wikimedia Commons

Started in Chari Huzir in Kanke block, the programme by OSCAR foundation now covers eight different tolas (a group of villages). A few players from the training institute have made it to Under-15 and Under-17 teams of Jharkhand.

Though professional football will not be a part of the larger plan for many girls, for now they are rewriting their life through a sport that has helped them realise their worth in the world.

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“I started playing football when I was in class eight and I arrived on the field wearing a traditional skirt,” recalled Anshu. She thought people would make fun of her but instead, she became less conscious over time and mastered the sport.

She noted that the most important factor in her story was her mother’s decision to let her play. “As I teach young girls now, it feels good to be a person who others look up to,” added Anshu, who dreams of taking her football career forward along with higher studies. (IANS)