Meagre resources have taught the three Pandey siblings of Hussainganj the virtues of sharing.
The only things they don’t have to share are their laptops received from the state government as part of its free laptop distribution scheme. These gadgets are the most expensive possessions at their home. The laptops are also the windows to the world for Nidhi, 20, Pulkit, 17, and Vinay, 16 who are otherwise cooped up in a two-room rented house with their parents in a dingy lane. Their father, Ramesh Chandra Pandey, is self-employed and earns Rs 15,000 a month for his family of five.
The siblings study under a low voltage LED lamp and sit on a takht (makeshift bed) as their parents cannot afford a separate desk and chair for them.
Despite a year separating them, Pulkit and Vinit study in the same class and read the same textbooks as the family cannot afford two sets of class 12 textbooks for both.
Nidhi, who did her bachelor’s degree in science (BSc) from Isabella Thoburn College in 2015, received her laptop in 2013 when it was first distributed to fulfil the promise made by the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2012 assembly election.
“It helped me study. Now it is helping me in preparing for Staff Selection Commission (SSC) competitive exam. I take a mock test on this laptop,” says Nidhi who also teaches mathematics to class 12 students at a private coaching institute and earns Rs 4,000 a month after five hours of work daily.
Pulkit and Vinit are Class 12 students at the Government Inter College, Nishatganj. They got their laptops a few days before UP assembly poll 2017 dates were announced.
Their new laptops have more advanced features, a reason for the brothers to tease Nidhi whose gadget is older.
“Our laptops are equipped with Windows 10, 4GB RAM and USB port 3.0. Nidhi is using Windows 7, 2GB RAM and USB 2.0. We could have asked for more as it is the most expensive thing that we have in our home,” the duo says. The three siblings often go to Hazratganj and sit for hours to enjoy free wi-fi facility as they cannot afford to buy data cards.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav conversed with Vinit at an interactive session with select laptop beneficiaries in Lucknow on January 19.
“CM sir asked me how the laptop helped me? I told him it was helping me study, prepare for competitive exams and keep abreast of latest developments in many spheres,” Vinit says.
“This conversation continued for about 25 minutes. Then, the chief minister asked his secretary to take my details for contact in the future,” Vinit says. Pulkit, who scored 87% marks in high school (class 10) exam, regularly takes part in debate competitions and sports. He has also been part of the National Service Scheme.
Like the Pandey siblings, sisters Aiman Raza and Fiza have benefited from laptops which they received in March 2013.
Within two-three months of receiving the gadgets, the two sisters got a part-time data entry jobs with a private company when they were studying for their bachelor’s degree at Shia PG College. The family lives in a narrow lane off Gwyne Road in the state capital.
Their father died of tuberculosis a few years ago, leaving his four children and wife on the brink of poverty. Their mother, who is illiterate, took to stitching to make ends meet. Aiman is now an accountant and Fiza is employed with a telemarketing company. “Our laptops helped us. Fiza often carried the gadget to a primary school where she worked as a part-time teacher,” Aiman says.
The gadget helped Aiman offer tuition to a few students and helped her earn some money. Now, the two SP laptop beneficiaries have taken it on themselves to change the family’s fortune. “We are thankful to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav for bridging the digital divide in the state,” they say.