COVID-19 looms large over curtailed Zero Hour
Rural children being deprived of online classes, says Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patelby Special Correspondent
From the digital divide affecting access to online classes to the state of the economy, the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the toll it has already extracted loomed large over the curtailed 30-minute Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha.
Apna Dal member Anupriya Patel raised the issue of the digital divide between rural and urban India and the effect it was having on the educational opportunities among rural children, with them being deprived of online classes.
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“Most of our students in the rural areas do not have laptops, tablets or even smartphones to avail classes, those who do so on educational channels on television find that sporadic power supply affects their chances of benefiting from online classes. The pandemic has created a new situation of haves and have nots,” said the MP from Uttar Pradesh. She asked the Union government to float a scheme to at least provide a smartphone and a reasonable data plan to children from rural areas as schools were unlikely to reopen soon.
Lakshadweep MP’s plea
Lakshadweep MP Faizal P Mohammad observed that while the Union Territory was the only part of the country that hadn’t seen a single case of COVID-19 till date, the situation with regard to more than 3,000 students from the islands, who had returned from different parts of the country from educational institutions where they had been studying, was dire.
“Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is the only service provider on the islands, and while a 1.75 GB line expansion has been approved, there is nothing on the ground. The students and parents are in distress and I appeal to the Union government to help them out,” he said.
Supriya Sule of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said the state of the economy was worrisome and that a full-fledged debate on the same should take place in the House. “Our State in particular, Maharashtra , is facing the most challenging time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we are not getting the help we require,” she said.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was present in the House when the demand was made.
S S Barne of the Shiv Sena urged the government to release the Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation amount to Maharashtra which, he said, was “probably the worst affected by COVID-19.”