A young Rajasthani farmer lives off the road, but very much within the grid as he downloaded the Paytm app on his smartphone on November 10, a day after the government scrapped 500- and 1,000-rupee notes.
The 27-year-old Purushottam Kumawat has used the e-wallet 10 times since. He upgraded his phone with a higher version from Flipkart. But the wallet is used mostly to recharge mobile phones — his and his friends.
Kumawat lives at Basera village in Pratapgarh, a southern Rajasthan district bordering Madhya Pradesh, which is 3km off the Pratapgarh-Mandsaur highway. A dirt road leads to his village.
There’s no public transport to the village, though it is just 23km from the district headquarters. The village doesn’t have a telephone line and is beyond the 3G mobile network.
But Kumawat logs in to the fascinating worldwide web whenever he’s not tending his field of six hectares. Online shopping using Paytm is his latest obsession.
Another young man from Basera, Ishwar Kumawat, heard about a Wi-Fi village in Delhi around a year ago and decided to bring the technology to his native hamlet.
With an investment of Rs 120,000, he made four Wi-Fi hotspots in the village, introducing villagers to the internet.
“A user gets 1GB of data free every month. If the usage goes up, which has not happened so far, I may charge them,” said Ishwar, a 26-year-old son of a farmer.
He’s the youngest of three siblings — his elder brother runs a dairy in the village and another has a garments shop.
Basera has 196 households and a population of 1,017, according to the 2011 census.
At present, 80 people are using Ishwar’s Wi-Fi network. “Students use it for study material, the youth are hooked to social media, while some elders use Skype to chat with their sons working in Vadodara and Indore,” he says.
Vidya Kumawat, a 20-year-old BEd student at a private college in Chhoti Sadri, uses the internet for assignments. Her younger sister, a second-year BA student, and brother, who’s in class 11, use Wi-Fi to surf social media.
The cash crunch after demonetisation has prompted many users in Basera to download and use Paytm.
“I went to Pratapgarh to buy iron for my fabrication workshop a few days ago. I didn’t have enough cash. I thought I will withdraw from the bank, but there was a long queue. I returned to Basera and made the payment through Paytm,” says Sunil Lohar.
The 33-year-old trader uses the internet to read news and surf Google for designs he can use in his workshop.