EDUSAT KASHMIR: Dying a Slow Death

The launching of GSAT – 3 commonly known as EDUSAT (Educational Satellite) as a visionary idea to bring the whole country on the common podium of knowledge and learning by ISRO (Indian Space & Research Organization) in 2004 was a welcomed step and a step to further the development of human capital in the India Sub-continent. EDUSAT, a dedicated satellite exclusively for educational purposes, is a platform that ensures digital learning and smart classroom system. Teachers from across the country with their specializations and super– specializations come to EDUSAT studios that are well connected, decentralized and state of the art in the technological parade to deliver (smart and interactive) lectures. These lectures are beamed at SIT’s (Satellite Interactive Terminals) located in different educational institutions, where students attend interactive lectures on different subjects.

Zooming in to the particular case of Kashmir, the commissioning of the connectivity began in 2006 and by 2008 the entire EDUSAT network with its main HUB at Government College for Women, M. A. Road, Srinagar became functional. A total of Fifty-Nine institutes including (Degree Colleges, Higher Secondary Schools & Technical institutions of the valley) were thus connected and the takeoff of the process was good. The maintenance part of the said network was looked after by ISRO through M/S HUGHES Communications India Limited. The state government didn’t pass to maintain good financial ties with the said agency and made delays in the payments and decision makings; all a part of the normal working of efficient firms! Eventually, the (annual) Maintenance Contract expired in March 2012. Already fed up with the inexistent equilibrium between the private firm and the government tie up, M/S HUGHES was more than happy to run out of the contract tenure.

Whatever was left got washed away by the flood of 2014! Later, in 2015, Syed Altaf Bukhari, the then MLA  Amira Kadal constituency, writes a letter to the Hon’ble governor of the state, requesting for the revival of the EDUSAT Network in J&K. No results! Many attempts by the concerned people were made but again nothing seemed to come in. In 2016  Nayeem Akhter was intimated about it and some hope seemed to surface up. Jammu EDUSAT Hub was facilitated: indeed not to our relief as appeals were made to facilitate Kashmir EDUSAT Hub keeping in mind that each hub is independent. Anyhow, ISRO help was sought and whatever of technical assets and machines etc were preserved by the EDUSAT coordinator of Kashmir division was “officially” ordered to be taken to the Jammu Hub so that Jammu Hub could be made operational and functional. A promise was also made in lieu of exchanges; that new set of equipment will be given to the EDUSAT Hub Kashmir. Again a promise that never materialized!

EDUSAT Kashmir currently has a parasitic existence. It is connected to the Jammu Hub through a lease – line, the stability of which is dependent on multiple nodes like EDUSAT Hub Kashmir, BSNL Srinagar, NIC Srinagar, NIC Jammu, BSNL Jammu, EDUSAT Hub Jammu. No new set – up was given to the Hub in here. This leased – line connection is a metaphor for trials! Jammu Hub gets offline and Kashmir EDUSAT Network is automatically shut. The Resource Persons associated with EDUSAT are (Assistant/Associate) Professors, Scholars, and experts, all the people whose time is very precious. They spare time from their busy schedules and come to the EDUSAT Studio, Kashmir to deliver lectures and due to problems in either Jammu Hub or leased – line they are rendered idle and waiting in the studio. The students at the same time come with all the zest and enthusiasm. The same problems leave them disinterested and dim the hopes of gain from the same within their selves!

Administration of the EDUSAT Hub – Kashmir has been trying its best to do what it can. Practically they haven’t been rendered free to do anything as such.They are forced to go with a begging bowl to the state and central governments. Failing there, they are pushed in same misery towards approaching the ISRO for the equipment so that the Hub to do the least, starts an independent Hub in the Kashmir Division. In their continuous trials to revive and rejuvenate the system, they have so far succeeded in connecting 31 institutes to the EDUSAT Network. They have been nudging the authorities back and again for the equipment to connect these additional institutes as a part of their Phase – I process. Intentioned Phase – II on their part is to connect the remaining institutes of the network.

Why EDUSAT is so important?A teacher utilizing the same energy is accessible to a wider audience. The classroom confinements are put aside and the horizon for the students is opened to be widest. To make a ground for the existence of simultaneous virtuous education and worth teaching, EDUSAT comes as a silent revolution and ray of hope. Its importance is multidimensional and impacts a number of educationally lagging sectors of the state.

Talking about the individual journey, I found the proposal inviting resource persons to EDUSAT in a local daily. I sent the proposal because I wanted to be of contributor and at the same time save me the rest of the day to do my own academic chore. The journey started quite well. I began by taking classes for the undergraduate students and the response was very high. The classes kept on going well and semester ran successfully.

Later I was phoned by EDUSAT team informing that there was a request for a lecture on a specific topic by a Higher Secondary Institute in Drass. As I reached the studio on a predetermined morning, the screen reflected such a keen bunch of students sitting on the ground on some rugged flouring with notebooks and pens ready to jot the notes. The lecture lasted for 2 hours and then for an additional hour they came up with all sorts of questions. Also asking, “Will we get jobs as we grow up because the population of India is increasing so much?”

In our trips to Ladakh we see children walking to and fro to Schools and (seldom) colleges. The whole set of existence in that part of the world is tough. Their access to the outer world is very limited and knowledge confined. Through EDUSAT these children are able to learn about a world that exists beyond the confinements of the mountains they live within.

Not only Ladakh, to all remote regions in particular and the whole state in general EDUSAT stood and stands to create and mark a difference in educating and inducing the process of learning. Letting it die such a shameful death when it is capable to make a drastic change hardly makes any sense!