Purulia, West Bengal: A visit to Badakhula village in Purulia district can be an eye-opener. Badakhula has no electricity, no land or cellphones – one among the several ‘no connectivity villages’ in a country emerging as a global hub of information technology.
To get to Badakhula in Bandwan block in south-east Purulia, you have to drive through dense teak forests, down mud tracks. Most people in this impoverished pocket live off forest produce or are marginal farmers. Women in labour have to trudge a mile to get to the nearest health sub-centre. From there, they can hire a jeep to take them to the block primary health centre. Those who are not physically in a condition to walk that distance are carried in a ‘duliya’ (a string cot) by able-bodied men in the village.
But this April, there was a buzz in Badakhula with the arrival of a “van rickshaw”, a locally manufactured innovation to make it easier for expecting mothers to reach a hospital.