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The Digital Divide

Author: Prajjwal R T

With the opulent 10% of Indians owning 80.7% of the country’s wealth, the raging pandemic is widening the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. The persistent unequal distribution of wealth in India has augmented the employment crisis, with only the affluent ones gaining access to control the entire wealth of the nation. Thomas Piketty, in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) cites a prototype that supports his central thesis that ‘the owners of capital accumulate wealth more quickly than those who provide labor’, an idea that revolves around an aphorism: “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer”

Nevertheless, the death by suicide of an LSR college(New Delhi) student- Aishwarya Reddy calls for a reckoning.

Aishwarya, in her distressing suicide note, wrote about how she was a burden to her family because of her education and stated that the family struggled to keep up with the digital world. The family had to mortgage their home in Telangana while her sister had to discontinue her studies, even after sending several requests to the college for financial assistance. This incidence, termed to be ‘an institutional murder’, has also sparked off the ‘digital divide’ in India. The 19-year-old who wrote “If I can’t study, I can’t live”, should be a grim reminder to society about the psychological tolls faced by the students amidst the global chaos.

The lack of devices and good internet connection has often drawn a fine line between the haves and the have-nots. The pandemic wave has proved to be a catastrophe for the students to cope-up with online education, be it the learning methods or the workload burdened upon them. While the government promises to bridge the gap by providing students with the necessary gadgets to encourage their studies, it has not yet swayed its hands over the weaker sections of the society, calling for surveillance on the working of its policies. While the privileged ones had a smooth transition, people living in remote areas have a different story to tell. As a student myself, there were various occasions where I encountered issues regarding an unstable internet connection, despite residing in a city claimed to be known as Silicon Valley of India. 

With classrooms and social hubs where one could meet and share their little experiences with their peers being cordoned off, it has not only been tough for the students but, for the faculty and staff members as well. Online classes have become a tool to harass teachers, thus making the advantaged look flagrant, despite having access to all the privileges. Something which we believe to be meager can prove to be dear to others.

Speaking of this topic, I would recommend you all to watch Rora Kennedy’s documentary  ‘Without a Net’ which explores the digital split in America, highlighting how the economically deprived sections tackled it and the measures which were taken to provide parity to one and all. In the wake of the pandemic, the digital divide has brought all underdeveloped areas of society in the field of education to a standstill and in-turn, reducing the opportunities to shape their careers. Even though the Digital India campaign launched by PM Modi in the year 2015 focuses on busting digital inequality, the main motive of the program is still striving hard to cater to the needs of everyone.