[Live Blog] Digital Rajasthan Yatra II: Tracking Rajasthan’s Tech Revolution Plan For The Next 10 Years In 10 days

[Live Blog] Digital Rajasthan Yatra II: Tracking Rajasthan’s Tech Revolution Plan For The Next 10 Years In 10 days

10 Days. 10 Districts. 2000 Km. In Phase 2 Of Digital Rajasthan Yatra, Inc42 Brings To You Stories Of Real Change From Ground Zero

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Technology is fascinating in more ways than the mind can comprehend or the eye can perceive. Behind the flashy, new-age appeal of and social media buzz around consumer technology is real change being led by digital technology that’s uplifting the lives of people on the ground.

Rajasthan, a state with a population close to 69 Mn (6.89 cr), is one of the leading agents of this digital change in India. Rajasthan was once synonymous with heritage and royalty, conjuring up images of majestic forts amid deserts and pink and blue cities dotted with temples and havelis.

Today, the state is taking incredible strides towards digital transformation across sectors and cross-sections of society. While, on one hand, it has emerged as a leading hub for startups in the country with its iStart programme, on the other, it is driving e-governance at various levels, bringing digital where it really matters — to empower its women through Bhamashah Yojana and e-Sakhi, to help employ local youth through e-Mitra, etc.

Smartphones and Internet have become a part of the daily lives of the people residing in the state, as was evident from the high number of requests for mobile number portability (MNP) in Rajasthan. The number stood at 26.24 Mn — the highest in the Northern and Western zones of India — and that too for the second year in a row, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

And at the base of these initiatives is the state government’s Rajnet — a network that is set to cover all 9,894 gram panchayats and 183 municipal areas along with all district and block headquarters in the state. The number of Internet users in Rajasthan was the highest among rural areas in India at 7.3 Mn as at January 31, 2016 (6.47% share in all India) and second only to West Bengal, according to the government data.

In our last (and first) Digital Rajasthan Yatra, we discovered evidence of the real digital change happening on the ground in the state. We met 58-year-old Gayatri Soni of Tonk, an ANM (auxiliary nurse and midwife) worker in the Chironj village, whose primary job is to spread awareness on health-related government services and policies to women in her village. We also met health workers who use phones to click pictures of their registers and paperwork and send them to the PHC office, making functioning smoother and more transparent.

The scope of the digital advancement Rajasthan is making and the scope for us in terms of opportunities and challenges to cover this change has brought us back to Rajasthan to conduct Phase Two of the Digital Rajasthan Yatra. This time, we will be covering even more ground (2,000 Km), both literally and figuratively, and will be travelling through 10 districts beginning with Nagaur. We will also cover Jodhpur, Pali Udaipur, Rajsamand, Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Alwar, Bharatpur, Dausa.

[Live Blog] Digital Rajasthan Yatra II: Tracking Rajasthan’s Tech Revolution Plan For The Next 10 Years In 10 days

This time around, we will assess the adoption of technology and all things digital by the locals, with a major focus on farmers, women, and youth on one hand and sectors such as agriculture, SMEs, education, and healthcare on the other.

Watch this space to keep track on our travels through the majestic state of Rajasthan, where we explore firsthand the changes technology is bringing on the ground.

Day 5: July 11, 8:00 PM

Improving Mother And Child Care In Rajasthan Villages Through Digitisation

Place: Delwara, Rajsamand district

Participant: Dr Vikas Purushottam, primary healthcare centre medical officer

We’ve been bringing to you ground reports of the digitalisation wave that’s touching every aspect of people’s lives in Rajasthan, in both rural and urban areas. The government is working to make sure that its technology enabled schemes reach the remotest corners of the state, helping citizens to derive the maximum benefits from them.

One such initiative is anganwadi — the primary centre for education as well as healthcare for the people of Rajasthan. Every village has an Asha worker (known as ASHA Sahyogini in Rajasthan), an auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM), and anganwadi workers, who act as three primary agents of healthcare facilities provided by the government.

The Day 5 of Digital Rajasthan Yatra II, was majorly a travelling day for us. During our visit to Delwara near Udaipur, we met Dr Vikas Purushottam, a medical officer at a PHC, to understand how these three agents work on the ground.

“You can consider an Asha worker as one of the daughters-in-law of the village. She is close to the people, helps women step into the outside world, and teaches them the basics of education and healthcare. However, her major work spans around antenatal care, pregnancy care, and childbirth, among others,” said Purushottam.

With a view to centralise and smoothen healthcare delivery and monitoring of pregnant females, young mothers and their children, the government has introduced an online system called the Pregnancy and Child Tracking System (PCTS).

Apart from primary healthcare centres (PHCs) and community healthcare centres (CHCs), there are sub-centres in villages with three-four anganwadis reporting to each sub-centre. The Asha workers file reports on antenatal and post-natal cases at these sub-centres. ANMs, who work directly at the centres, record the cases and take them forward to primary healthcare centre (PHC)/community healthcare centre (CHC).

The ANMs update the details of patients every month on the PCTS. This is the first entry and contains patient information and details relating to the Bhamashah Card, Aadhaar, bank account details, etc.

Further, high-risk pregnancy females (HRPs) are categorised separately in the PCTS software. A unique ID is generated by the PCTS, which acts as an online record of all the health-related details, etc of the female in question. This ID is valid across Rajasthan and can be used for healthcare services anywhere in the state.

Then there is the Home Based Neonatal Care (HBNC) scheme, under which an Asha worker monitors and takes care of the new mother and child for 42 days after the delivery. Their health status is recorded at pre-fixed times, ranging from four-six times, during the 42-day period.

Purushottam said that earlier it was really difficult for the PHCs and these healthcare agents to monitor patients centrally. The lead time was very high and a lot of time was wasted in communicating things over the phone. Now, the details are updated on a centralised system and everyone is on the same page. This has proved to be one of the biggest benefits of the online record-keeping system for all healthcare officials of the ecosystem.

“However, it is very important for the beneficiaries to keep their documents updated so as to get access of the benefits. The doctors and officials keep telling people to keep their records updated,” he added.

Purushottam shared with us the different schemes launched by the Centre and the Rajasthan government to benefit the village women. Here are a few of them:

  • Under the Centre’s Janani Suraksha Yojana, INR 1,400 and INR 1,000 are given to women in rural and urban areas respectively.
  • The Rajasthan government’s Rajshree Yojana is an incentive scheme that provides INR 50K to women on the birth of a girl child, in installments. The first installment of INR 2,500 given at the time of birth, then INR 2,500 on completion of one year of immunisation, and so on.
  • The Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojana, launched in December 2015, provides health insurance to National Food Security Scheme beneficiaries. Only regular beneficiaries of the scheme with active Bhamashah Cards can avail of this benefit.
  • The insurance covers about 1,100 ailment packages, divided into secondary and tertiary level care. CHC, sub-divisional hospitals, district hospitals, medical colleges, and government-affiliated private hospitals cover the treatment of these ailments as per the packages available at their centres.
  • The maximum annual limit of the scheme is INR 30,000. In case of serious ailments, the healthcare centre requests the government for further assistance and the amount can be raised upto INR 3,00,000, depending upon the case. The request is usually approved in within 48 hours of the request being made.
  • Under Kilkari Yojana, which is operational in very few places at present, immunisation and vaccination are provided for free. Women receive SMS reminder on their mobile phones for the due date.

We were also surprised to learn about the number of softwares being utilised at an anganwadi (rural mother and childcare centres) to ensure its hassle-free functioning and for maintaining all the data properly. Let us give you a glimpse of the same:

  • There is a special software for Asha workers called Asha Soft, where Asha workers update the details of 42 post-delivery care days under the unique ID generated by the PCTS. The details are automatically updated on the PCTS software.
  • Asha workers get their incentives on the basis of the work done by them, which is updated on Asha Soft. Their work is verified by the ANM immediately above them. The incentives are directly transferred into their bank account.
  • All the monetary benefits under various government schemes are monitored by the Ojas, an accounting software. The benefits are transferred directly into beneficiaries’ bank accounts.
  • OPD (outdoor patients department) receipts are generated via the CPS Raj software. Free receipts are generated on provision of a government-approved ID.
  • Records of free medicines are updated on the e-Aushadhi software. This software records the data of each beneficiary with reference to their unique ID. Also, it can be used by the healthcare centre to raise demands for more medicines.
  • e-Saadhan is another software through which the healthcare centres communicate the requirement of various contraceptives to the government.
  • Nikshay is a centralised software for tuberculosis patient records. This software maintains online records with unique IDs valid across the state and the person is entitled to receive free treatment kit, etc, from PHCs/CHCs anywhere in Rajasthan.

Despite all efforts, there are certain glitches that needs to be sorted, say the doctors. For instance, under Kilkari Yojana, most of the women are unable to read reminder messages as they are not educated. A possible solution to this problem is reminders via voice calls.

The doctors also suggested that the local vernacular should be used for these voice calls and the voice message should be designed in a way that it catches the attention of the listener.

Digitisation has made it easy for healthcare workers to schedule and plan their work because now they can access all the records online, thus making it possible to foresee future needs. However, the road ahead is still long.

Surprised by the digitisation observed in the streets of Udaipur, the Inc42 team’s next stop is capital city Jaipur.

Stay tuned to read what’s next in our Digital Rajasthan Journey!

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Day 4: July 10, 6:00 PM

Meet Daksh, A 16-Year-Old App Developer Looking To Solve India’s ‘Small’ Problems

The highlight of the Udaipur trip for Inc42 was meeting Daksh Agrawal, a Class X student who is the proud owner and developer of seven apps on Google Play Store that are used by more than 10,000 people.

The idea of creating mobile apps came to Daksh when he was travelling in a group to Goa and expense sharing proved to be very cumbersome. They checked out various apps on the Play Store and found online ones, but nothing suited their purpose as they found them difficult to use in the Indian context.

The experience got Daksh thinking about developing offline apps specifically for India. Then a Class VI student, Daksh started educating himself on application development, programming, etc, on the Internet. Over the next one-and-a-half years, he learnt programming languages and Android-based app development by following various portals and forums such as Stack Overflow, Youtuber Siraj Rawal, etc. Daksh was so driven by the desire to build apps that he would skip school sometimes to work on his apps.

He failed three or four times to satisfy the standards of Google Play Store before finally making his big launch when he was in Class VIII. His first app, ‘My Share’, launched on Google Play Store, is an offline app that allows users to add members and split bills in a customisable manner.

The young man likes to brainstorm with his father about real-world problems. He tries to take perspectives on such problems from his father and then uses the inputs to work on his apps.  “I try to solve day-to-day problems by identifying such problems and making applications to solve them,” said Daksh.

Another app that resulted from his passion to help people address their everyday basic needs is ‘Society’ — a housing society management app that helps residents access notices from their residential societies, maintenance bills, etc.

Other apps created by Daksh are ‘Party Time’, an online party venue booking platform and ‘EMI Calculator’, which generates complete repayment schedules and enables users to compare different loan rates.

However, despite the success of his apps, Daksh has faced a lot of social censure for not focusing on his studies and getting into app development instead. But, fortunately for him, his parents have supported him through all his failures and successes and allowed him to do what he loves best.

Daksh’s father wanted him to become a tennis player but he never showed any interest in sports. He later realised that it was wrong on his part to force his dreams on Daksh and relooked at his parenting approach. When he discovered that Daksh was fond of technology and wanted to solve the small problems faced by people in India, he encouraged the boy to pursue his passion.

“I believe that the current social and education system should evolve into one where failures are accepted with grace and pride. Only when students are provided with conducive environments to experiment and play with their passions, and fail as well, is when they will truly grow and succeed,’’ said Daksh’s father

Daksh dreams of working with Google one day. He finds it easy to manage his schoolwork along with his passion. He doesn’t want to join coaching classes to prepare for engineering entrances. He has his sights set on MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), where the selection criteria is the interest and capability of the student, not the marks obtained.

After the end of his school session, Daksh was left with textbooks that were of no use to him. “These books could be of big help to the junior students and hence I created a book donation application, BookShare,” said Daksh.

Daksh believes that the government must promote IT in India by setting up unconventional and more productive environments to work in. He also feels developers must be provided support from the government and should be encouraged to experiment freely.

He believes that he can solve many problems faced by Indians in their day-to-day lives by learning from global trends and working in an international environment.

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Day 4: July 10, 1:30 PM

How Amit Agrawal Is Helping Young People With His Mobile Repair Training Centre

Place: Udaipur (Bapu Bazar)

Participant: Amit Agrawal, 41 yrs

After interacting with the students of the Khatu Shyam Infotech Studies Private Ltd (KHITS) in Udaipur, Inc42 met the man behind the centre — Amit Agrawal. Amit, 41, started the course in 2003 with four students and has grown the training centre to its present size of more than 40 students.

Agrawal had an interesting backstory to share about how he got into the mobile repairing training business. Prior to opening his centre, he was in the business of secondhand mobile phones. Such phones that came to him for sale were usually faulty, so he decided to learn mobile repairing on his own through resources such as books, mechanic friends of his, etc.

He translated the technical content of the books into easy-to-understand layman’s language and started working to repair circuits of these secondhand mobile phones. He then started conducting a course in mobile repair training.

Agarwal also updates the course content according to need. Over time, as touchscreens became popular, he realised that the major problems with mobile phones were usually related to the touchscreen or to charging. He decided to address these issues through the course and made the course module more practical in nature.

The course duration is anything from one-and-a-half to three months. Since the investment is low and mobile repairing is seen as a lucrative employment of business option these days, the demand for the course is very high. The course is priced at INR 5,900.

The typical age group seeking to enrol in the course is between 18-24 years and the minimum education requirement is Class VIII. It is mostly male-dominated even though mobile repairing could be a very good avenue for women as well. The gender ratio is very low — in fact no girl has ever enrolled at KHITS for mobile repairing course.

Mobile repair training centres such as KHITS are so popular than even mobile manufacturing giants such as Samsung and Micromax recruit candidates from them.

The major drawback of the free skill training schemes by the government, according to Amit, is that the students don’t value the courses because they don’t have to pay anything for them. Hence, it is important that the government charges a nominal fee for these courses.

Even though the number of enrolments has dipped a bit in the past couple of years, mobile repairing still offers a great employment and business opportunity to the youth of the country as the penetration of mobile phones is only increasing. Agarwal added that the students, most of whom come from financially weak backgrounds, manage to earn a decent living after the course.

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Day 4: July 10, 10 AM

Mobile Repairing For Jobs, Business Gains Popularity Among Rajasthan Youth

Date: 10 July

Place: Udaipur


Ram Singh, 18; Education: BA

Kishan Lohar, 24; Education: B.Com

Gajendra Patel,17; Education: Class XII

Ayush Jain, 18; Education: B.Com

Dinesh Singh, 22; Education: BA

Mohammad Nadeem, 20; Education: BA

Bhadra Veer Singh, 20; Education: BA

That mobiles are part of our everyday lives is something all of us echo ever so often — at work, at social gatherings, and more. But on Day 4 of Digital Rajasthan Yatra II, we got some real insights from the ground level on how the mobile revolution has swept the country.

During our visit to Udaipur, Team Inc42 caught up with Ram Singh, Kishan Lohar, Gajendra Patel, Ayush Jain, Dinesh Singh, Mohammad Nadeem, and Bhadra Veer Singh, all of whom have more than basic education, ranging from Class XII to undergraduate courses.

All of them are undergoing training in mobile repairing at Khatu Shyam Infotech Solutions Pvt Ltd (KHITS) in Udaipur. The mobile repairing business has great scope in the city as mobile phones are an essential part of everyone’s life today. The students travel 40-50 km every day from their villages to Udaipur for the classes.

The average fee of the course at the centre is about INR 5,900, for a period of two months. However, the students can continue with the course for a longer period and brush up their skills without paying any extra fee. In addition, the institute also provides direct placement for a minimum salary between INR 10,000 – INR 12,000.

The students we met want to gain some hands-on experience in a job and then aspire to open their own repairing centre. The expenditure in this business is INR 50,000 – INR 1 Lakh. These young aspiring entrepreneurs can avail of loans under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, which offers loans at a nominal rate of 0.6% per annum.

The gender ratio typically is low in the field of mobile repairing as women don’t generally opt for this profession.

Mobile repairing courses have become hugely popular in the state since many claim that professional courses like the RS-CIT (Rajasthan State Certificate course in Information Technology), Tally, and accounting do not yield substantial benefits for the students.

Mobile Penetration Among The Youth of Rajasthan

Mobile usage and Internet penetration are high among the youth of Rajasthan — from online deliveries providing exciting cashbacks, to Internet frauds, they are on top of everything. They prefer to may in cash-on-delivery mode for online orders because there is still a slight fear of and apprehension about online payments. They use mobile and DTH recharge, PayTm, etc, regularly.

Like other places in India, WhatsApp is the most frequently used mobile application among the youth here as well. They are quite aware of and wary of the fake news circulated on WhatsApp. And, all of them have Jio sim cards with monthly packages of 3 GB per day, which they use to access Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and to watch movies.

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Day 3: July 9, 8:00 PM

SBI Joins Hands With Rajasthan Govt To Empower Youth

The State Bank Of India (SBI), which has been working relentlessly to empower the rural youth of Rajasthan, has joined hands with the state government to support Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs).

The SBI bears all the costs of the RSETI in Pali, which is given in the form of a donation. After the training is over, the SBI helps the candidates avail of bank loans to start their own ventures and also conducts digital drives to educate people on using smartphones and applications to make life easier for them.

The RSETIs come under the ministry of rural development of the central government. There is one such training institute in every district and a total of 587 such centres across the state. RSETIs are managed by banks with active co-operation from the central and state governments.

In Pali, the Inc42 team met Anand Prakash (in pic), who works as a manager with the SBI. Currently, he is deputed at an SBI-sponsored RSETI in Pali for a period of three years.

The government reimburses the bank for the training of candidates falling in the Below Poverty Line (BPL), Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), and a few other categories; the cost comes to INR 100-150 per day. The trainees are also provided refreshments for free, the cost of which is borne by the donor bank, the SBI, and the government.

The candidates are not charged a registration fee to join courses at the RSETIs. They simply have to fill in registration forms and submit five photographs, copies of their Aadhaar and ration cards and a minimum education certificate (in a few cases). However, furnishing a Class XII marksheet is mandatory for candidates applying for accountancy, computer management, and some other courses.

RSETIs offer courses in computer accounting that cover the basics of computer education and progress towards the basics of bookkeeping softwares such as Tally.

For vocational courses, on the other hand, a Class V pass certificate is mandatory. These minimum education requirements are as per government mandates.

The courses overall are short-term, generally spanning 30 days. Every day, eight hours of training is provided, amounting to a total of 240 hours under each course. The courses are employment oriented, so the trainers deliver high-quality teaching in order to ensure that the students’ standards are true to the certification. The key focus is on people from the economically weaker sections of society, who can’t afford to pay the fee for such courses. The monthly family incomes of these students are between INR 8,000 to INR 10,000 on average.

A formal examination is conducted and based on the results, students are issued certificates by the central government that are valid all over the country.

The Positive Impact Of The Digitisation Drive Across India

Given the rising focus on digitisation, entrepreneurship, and online banking, Bharat QR and the Rajasthan Skill and Livelihoods Development Corporation (RSLDC) are making efforts to ensure that along with receiving skill development training, the youth are made digitally aware as well.

The people of Rajasthan have shown a positive attitude towards digitisation and the youth, in particular, are very curious to learn all of its nuances. Most of those who do these course opt for entrepreneurship. The donor bank also facilitates loans for students who are interested in starting their own ventures after the training.

The Centre and the Rajasthan government give a priority to certified students while sanctioning loans. The loan application needs to be approved and referred by the institute and the bank to take the case further. The loan amount depends on the nature and scale of the proposed business.

“The prospects of digital change are very high. It has the potential to bring about a revolution and change the way we live and see the world,” said Anand Prakash.

Currently, the settlement rate of students doing courses from the RSETI is 68%, of which 40% opt for entrepreneurship and 28% go for competitive exams or private jobs. A majority of the computer trainees opt for jobs and the institutes also provide placements with an average pay scale of INR 10,000 – INR 15,000 per month.

BharatQR is a mobile application created by the government, which facilitates integrated online payments such as NEFT/RTGS transfers without the need to actually go to the bank. This has made transactions easily accessible and convenient for everyone.

The RSLDC runs another skill development centre in Pali that is fully funded by the government. It conducts a short 45-minute session on digital education for all the students, irrespective of the course they are enrolled in. The session aims to impart basic knowledge of digital banking such as operating ATMs, using Internet banking, the BHIM payment app, etc.

The Empowered Women Of Rajasthan

The women’s enrollment ratio in the computer-oriented courses at the Pali RSETI is comparatively low. However, this is slowly changing. In the last batch, there were 10 girls in a class of 24 students. Female students who undergo vocational training in sewing, beauty courses, etc, often go on to open their own training centres.

Both married and unmarried young women enrol in the courses. The women enrolled in these courses feel that financial independence makes them feel empowered and, eventually, improves the living standard of their families as a whole.

There have been several success stories that have emerged from these training centres. For instance, Pushpa Banjara, a trainer at the Pali centre, overcame a major personal setback thanks to the course. She had a disturbed relationship with her husband, who left her alone with two children to look after. She joined the sewing course at the centre to become financially independent. After passing out from the course, she started teaching at the centre; she also runs her own training centre and takes on tailoring work as well. She is financially independent and is able to provide a good education for her children without any support from her husband.

In another instance, a trainee at the centre, Jhanvi, got a direct placement after completing her computer training course and is now earning around INR 10,000 – INR 15,000 per month.

NACER’s Role In Regulating Skill Training Centres Across India

The National Centre for Excellence of RSETIs (NACER), headquartered in Bengaluru, is the apex body authorised by the Centre to regulate and control the skill development institutes and the courses offered in them across India. To become a trainer at any of the RSETIs, one needs to undergo a formal trainer’s training programme in Bengaluru, conducted by the NACER. At the completion of the course, a certificate is issued to the candidate allowing him/her to conduct formal courses at RSETIs.

The minimum target set by the NACER for RSETIs is to enrol 750 students every year at each centre, of which approximately 100 must enrol for computer-oriented courses.

The aspirants are interviewed and scrutinised so as to assess their standard and capabilities, after which they get admitted to the course. There have been instances of young people who wanted to become engineers but couldn’t afford engineering course fees opting for hardware and computer-based courses at the RSETIs to keep their dream alive.

Awareness About RSETIs Still Low

The government does extensive promotion to create awareness about the free training programmes at RSETIs via newspapers, pamphlets, door-to-door marketing, etc. However, word-of-mouth publicity is one of the prime driving factors for the centres. Past students share their experiences with their peers, which, in turn, encourages others to join the centres. But still, there is a need to educate and spread awareness about RSETIs so that more people can benefit from them.

More than 50% of the enrolments are from the labour and daily wage-earning class, who are a bit sceptical about the benefits of the training. The trainers at these institutes play an important role in orienting them well with the courses and assuring them that the training will help provide employment to their children.

A Holistic Approach By The SBI

The SBI is also taking initiatives to increase awareness about online transactions. Bank officials visit different neighbourhoods and educate the people, especially women, about online transaction apps. They help them download such apps on their phones and explain the functioning to them. They also spread awareness among local vendors, grocers, etc, so as to ensure greater adoption of digital payments across cross-sections. People are enthused about using such apps at coffee shops, grocery stores, and even local vegetable vendors.

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Day 3: July 9, 6:30 PM

Why The Youth Of Pali Are Arming Themselves With Digital Skills

At our next stop in Pali, we visited a coaching institute run by Deepak Teeji, who runs a course on the basics of repairing and servicing of computers and mobiles. Here, we met a group of six young students pursuing the three-month course, which emphasises on the practical aspects of the topic.

These students are looking to diversify their skills along with pursuing their undergraduate courses, which are about to commence soon.

Anil Mewada, an 18-year-old student, said, “B.com is not enough to guarantee decent employment and I am undertaking this course to gain some extra skills.’’

Most of the students are just about to begin college and are a commerce background. As we spoke to them, it became clear that although they may not know what career they want to pursue, they are aware of the importance of digital skills in increasing their employability.

The computer repairing course, in a way, is their safety net. “The idea is that even after after obtaining a (graduation) degree, if you’re not able to find a job opening, with this professional certification, you can do mobile and computer servicing and be self-employed. It is a more self-reliant option,” said Mohit Rajpurohit, 17, who wishes to become an Android programmer and work for a multinational in future.

The students said most of their friends were preparing for the entrance examinations of the Indian Army or Navy in Kota, Rajasthan.

They told us that computer and mobile repairing is a big business in Pali, which has many shops providing services such as mobile parts replacement, OS installation, and computer debugging.

Most of the students have either completed or were pursuing the RS-CIT (Rajasthan State Certificate Course in Information Technology), a basic computing course run by the state government to equip the state youth with essential skills to use computers with confidence and explore career opportunities. The students wanted the RSCIT centre to include more advanced courses.

Deepak, who is 25 years old and has worked as a service support engineer with the likes of HP,  said the government should standardise the trainers who teach RSCIT courses and suggested it could be done by introducing a certification programme for them so that the coaching classes don’t just become a money-making machine.

Tête-à-Tête Over AI, Pokemon Go, And Avengers In Pali!

One may be quick to assume that the students in Pali, while learning basic computing skills, are not in line with technology as much as youths in bigger cities and metros. But we were pleasantly surprised during a conversation with some young people. Sitting in a small room in an apartment shared by other coaching classes, we caught them discussing artificial intelligence (AI,) voice assistants, Pokemon Go, and the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, among other things! So much for assumptions.

Anil said that he had deleted his Facebook account while Mohit said he has learnt how to ensure online security by using Sandbox, a security software for Windows.

These digitally forward youngsters get most of their technology-related news on Twitter, although they don’t tweet much themselves.

On being asked which tech personality they liked the most, they delved in the surreal world of comics and fantasy with Mohit saying he’s inspired by Tony Stark and Anil said his favourite was Batman.

Who knew cool gadgets shown in movies such as Avengers and Dark Knight could be inspiring these young kids in Pali to explore a future in technology!

May the force be with them, is all the Inc42 team could sign off with!

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Day 3: July 9, 5:00 PM

ASHA Sahyoginis Are Transforming Lives Of Women In Rajasthan

After having a few insightful discussions with the farmers of Krishi Mandi, we were making our way out to Pali in our cars, only to get held up by another fascinating story waiting for us a few blocks away.

Meet Firdosh Bano, a 32-year-old woman, working as an Asha Sehyogini.

During a conversation with Firdosh, the Inc42 team learnt that the Class XII passout underwent an eight-day certified training programme under ASHA (known as ASHA Sahyogini in Rajasthan) in Pali in 2014.

ASHA is a community-level worker whose role is to function as a healthcare facilitator, a service provider, and someone who spreads awareness about health issues. Apart from delivering key services related to maternal health and family planning, ASHAs also render important services under the National Disease Control Programme. This programme has played an important and critical role in the implementation of health activities under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

The women working in this programme are known as ASHAs or ASHA Sahyogini. ASHAs are supported by the latest technologies which include smartphones and tablets. “We use a smartphone for communicating the requirements of Anganwadis to the primary healthcare centre (PHC),” said Firdosh. Anganwadis are mother-and-child care centres in rural India. They were started by the central government in 1985 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services programme to combat child hunger and malnutrition.

Firdosh further told us that Anganwadi workers are given a tablet, which has improved their working efficiency and reduced costs incurred in activities such as travelling to PHCs just to make a request for materials. However, they still have to go from door to door to remind people about vaccinations and other health schemes in the state because not all women have mobile phones.

While talking to Firdosh, we were amazed to see how the Bhamashah Card is again at the forefront here.

The other such scheme transforming the lives of the women in Rajasthan is the Bhamashah Card initiative of the Honourable Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje.

Anganwadi workers also make efforts to educate people about the benefits of the Bhamashah Yojana. Access to mobile phones and the Internet has further increased awareness in this regard and people are now actively adopting the digital schemes of the government.

“Under the Bhamashah scheme, money from various subsidies is now directly deposited in the beneficiary’s bank account and they receive a message on their mobile phone regarding the same. This, in turn, has improved the living standard of women and has empowered them,” said Firdosh.

Firdosh is very happy with her job as an Anganwadi Sahyogini and feels empowered by it. She believes that she and a lot of other women can contribute a lot more, especially to rural healthcare. She adds that the presence of a strong digital infrastructure as in Rajasthan makes her want to do more and inspire more women to join the journey.

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Day 3: July 9, 3:00 PM

The Problems Rajasthan Farmers Face And How Digitisation Is Helping Solve Them

After taking a tour of the Jodhpur Krishi Mandi, we sat down with Mandi secretary Ram Singh Sisodia, who had joined the Krishi department in 1989 and has worked in places such as Devana, Nagaur, Jaisalmer, Jaitaran, Udaipur and Jodhpur, to understand farmers’s challenges and how they are benefiting from the mandi (market). The Krishi Mandi’s official name is Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindhiya Krishi Upaj Mandi Samiti (Grain), Jodhpur.

Sisodia has been working as the secretary of the Jodhpur grain mandi since August 2012. He told the Inc42 team learnt about the different initiatives and schemes the government of Rajasthan has introduced for farmers in the state. We also interacted with a group of farmers and learnt about the challenges being faced by them.

Challenges Faced By Rajasthan Farmers

Wary Of Online Payments

With his focus on digitisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has left no stone unturned to encourage people across India to adopt cashless payment modes. The government has introduced the National Agriculture Market or eNAM, an online trading platform for agricultural commodities in India for farmers, traders, and buyers.

However, the farmers in Jodhpur Krishi Mandi still prefer instant cash transactions. They are a bit apprehensive about such payments because most of them, being uneducated, lack the technical knowhow to carry out digital transactions.

Here are some other reasons for their preference for cash:

  • They usually take small, unsecured loans from middlemen for weddings or other purposes. Aartya (middlemen) and farmers share a good bond and farmers rely on aartyas for small loans, which they cannot avail under eNAM
  • The farmers, who come to the mandi from far off places to sell their crops, prefer to be paid in cash so that they can buy seeds, fertilisers, and other household things on their way back to the village
  • Online transactions take time and there is often a lag in the payment as small cooperative banks don’t have adequate digital infrastructure. The payment is supposed to reflect within one to one-and-a-half hours in their bank accounts
  • Farmers still find it challenging to operate bank accounts and ATMs. They’re wary of ATMs and online thefts so they prefer cash only
  • The government’s BHIM app is used for such transactions, but the penetration is not high because less than 10% farmers have smartphones

However, with the state government’s efforts, farmers are slowly but surely shifting towards e-payments. Starting from April 2018, 137 e-payments were recorded at the mandi.

eNAM: Farmers, All Departments Must Work Together To Promote Scheme

The farmers the Inc42 team spoke to believe that the state agriculture and revenue departments, the sarpanch (village head), and land management officials all have to come together to make eNAM successful. Just announcement and promotion of schemes and policies by the DOITC won’t help, they feel. The farmers want to be a part of the policymaking process and also to help in promotion and development of the scheme.

Farmers Want More Crops Added To ‘Quality Assured’ Check

At present, the crop assessment laboratory tests mustard and wheat on the basis of their oil and moisture content and provides quality certificates, which is a big relief for the farmers as they get the best prices for the certified produce. But, they say there are certain crops — like jeera or cumin — where the quality cannot be tested on the basis of oil and moisture. The old-school way of inspecting and assessing such crops physically is still more reliable, they add. They want more crops added to the testing system.

The History Of Krishi Mandi And Current Trade Volumes

Krishi Mandi secretary Ram Singh Sisodia is an interesting person. He not only told us about the history and working mechanism of the mandi, but also gave us insights into the digitisation happening there.

Sisodia told us that the Jeera Mandi was introduced in Jodhpur on April 1, 2017, under the Rashtriya Krishi Bazaar Yojana. The aim of this yojana is to have mandis (markets) in areas of major agricultural production. In 2008, the state government had launched some big mandis considering in western Rajasthan considering the high production of jeera in the region.

Earlier, the production of cumin in the area was about 1,000-1,500 boris (sacks) in a year. Farmers benefited immensely from the launch of the Jeera Mandi and were able to hike production up to more than 50,000 sacks of cumin in the very first year.

“The current produce is more than 3-3.5 lakhs boris of jeera; 50K-60K bori isabgol (psyllium husk); methi and yellow mustard are also grown here in massive quantities,” Sisodia said.

He also shared that during the peak season, the Jeera Mandi sees sales of up to 7K-8K boris in the peak season. “After May 15, sales touches about 4K-5K boris each day until the end of June. After that, it is around 1,500 boris everyday throughout the year,” he added.

Currently, the Rashtriya Krishi Bazar Yojana is applicable only at the mandi level but it will soon be expanded to the state and then to the national level.

Fast Facts From The Mandi

  • Approximately 30-40 sacks of grain are brought in a single lot
  • The auction time is currently two-four hours because there is a lot of physical intervention. But once the system is fully digitised the auction time will go upto 30 minutes or less.
  • Right now, mustard and chana (gram) are selling below the minimum support price (MSP). MSP is the rate at which the government procures the yield, but in the mandi, forces of demand and supply decide the rate

Digitisation Of Krishi Mandi: The Urgent Need To Spread Awareness Among Farmers

One of the major aims behind digitisation of the mandis is to eradicate middlemen, thereby safeguarding the interests of the farmers. Online auctions will further integrate buyers and sellers from across the country and distance will no longer be a barrier in trading of agricultural produce.

Sisodia explained that the system is designed keeping in mind the interest of all — agents, buyers, and farmers.

All farmers receive e-gate passes of the Rashtriya Krishi Bazaar, which acts as a registration card of sorts, enabling them to sell their produce anywhere in India. Soon after the generation of the e-gate pass, the farmer unloads his produce in the mandi and the sample is tested by the workers there.

A physical tag containing a detailed report on the nutrients and qualities of the produce is provided so that buyers can check the quality of the crop at the time of auction. The yield is judged on the basis of the norms and grades set by the central government. The rates are decided as per the satisfaction of the these standards.

This report is also updated online on a mobile app, which makes it easy for buyers to assess and analyse different batches of produce. The farmers receive messages on their mobile phones about the test reports, highest bid price, final sale price, etc. They are at the liberty to refuse to sell their produce in case they are dissatisfied with the bid price. Also, the MSP is paid directly into farmers’ bank accounts.

“At present, due to the lack of awareness about crop grading, many buyers prefer to physically assess the crop. But digitisation is getting their attention significantly. The prospect of complete digitisation of agricultural trading is high but it will take a longer time,” said Sisodia.

He also said that less than 10% farmers are aware of eNAM. He added that those who are aware use the online trading platform, but there is a need to mobilise the scheme on a large scale. Gram panchayats are also making efforts to educate farmers about digital schemes, but its a slow process.

To fill the awareness gap, regular training programmes are conducted to educate farmers about the online trading and digital payment systems and the response has been positive.

The department of agriculture runs the Krishi Aapke Dwar programme, where officers from the department and mandi workers spread awareness about various government schemes. Regular radio and TV programmes are also aired for this purpose.

Other government schemes and facilities for farmers:

  • The Rajiv Gandhi Krishak Sathi Yojana is a welfare scheme for members of the mandi. In the case of death of a farmer, a compensation of INR 2 Lakh is given to the family. Many other mishaps, ailments, and accidents are covered under this scheme.
  • Nutritious food is provided to farmers at the mandi at a nominal price of INR 5 under the Kisan Kaleva Yojana. For many farmers, it works as a basic incentive to come to the mandi.
  • The Jyotiba Phule Mahila Kalyan Yojana provides women farmers with an INR 800 cashback on online transactions of under INR 1 Lakh and INR 1,000 on those above INR 1 Lakh.
  • Farmers are given a 25% discount on the mandi fee if they opt for online payment with a view to increase digital transactions.
  • Mandi workers receive an incentive of INR 50K on the wedding of their daughters (upto two girls). Women workers get 45 days of paid maternity leave. Similarly, compensation of INR 20,000 is provided in the case of death of a worker. Education benefits and incentives are also offered for education of the children of mandi workers.
  • The Kisan Credit Card enables farmers to avail of interest rates as 4% for loans of up to INR 3 Lakh (if they repay their loans on time); if they repay the loan after the stipulated deadline, then they are charged 7% interest. Loans from the unorganised sector usually charge interest rates as high as 18%-24%.
  • The government aims to double the income of the farmers by 2022 with digital schemes and infrastructure.
  • Rapid efforts are being made to improve the infrastructure of the mandis. The labs need to improved so as to ensure proper analysis of the crops.

A mandi samiti (committee) is elected by the members of the mandi. It comprises seven farmers, two traders, one transporters’ representative, one representative of the Nagar Nigam, one MLA, two cooperative sector representatives, and two mandi samiti workers. The chairman of samiti is one of the seven elected farmers. The purpose of the samiti is to ensure transparency in the functioning of the mandi and to include all stakeholders. The last election at the Jodhpur Krishi Mandi was held in June 2017.

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Day 3: July 9, 1:00 PM

How Krishi Mandi Is Bringing Jodhpur Farmers Online

Krishi Mandi not only provides Rajasthan’s farmers with a platform to sell their produce but is also an information hub for all agriculture-related schemes and activities.

In Jodhpur, we ran into a group of farmers discussing eNAM, or National Agriculture Market, an online trading platform started by the Centre. The market facilitates farmers, traders and buyers to do online trading in agricultural commodities across India. According to reports, eNAM transactions (mostly intra-market) stood at INR36,200 Cr by January 2018. More than 90 commodities, including staple foodgrains, vegetables, and fruits are currently listed on the list of commodities available for trade on eNAM.

In February 2018, eNAM introduced some features such as the MIS dashboard, farmers database, BHIM, and other mobile payment platforms, which is driving the adoption of eNAM even more. It also introduced enhanced features on its mobile app, including gate entry and payment through mobile phones.

We also found the farmers discussing the to Rajiv Gandhi Krishak Sathi Yojana 2009. This initiative was started in 1994 to provide financial assistance to farmers who get injured during agricultural activities.

The Inc42 team also had an interview with the Jodhpur Krishi Mandi Secretary, Ram Singh. While these stories are still developing, here are some pamphlets to read for our readers.

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Day 3: July 9, 11:30 AM

Inside Jodhpur: Welcome To Krishi Mandi

Travelling on the roads of Jodhpur, we have now reached a place called The Krishi Mandi. While the Inc42 team is exploring their story for the day further, here are a few pictures to give you a glimpse of the place.

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Day 2: July 8, 11 PM

How The Bhamashah Card Helped Jodhpur’s Devki Save Her Husband’s Life

According to the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) released in 2015, 92% of rural households in India have a monthly income of less than Rs 10,000, and 75% earn less than Rs 5,000. India also had the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 Mn children dying before reaching their fifth birthday.

Naturally, when people are struggling to make ends meet, they can’t have money to spare for healthcare. In such a scenario, government healthcare schemes and subsidies can go a long way in ensuring timely treatment and saving the lives of people in the country.

On our trip to Jodhpur as part of Digital Rajasthan Yatra 2, we met one such woman named Devki, who was able to save the life of her husband, Suraj, thanks to the Rajasthan government’s Bhamashah Card. Suraj recently underwent a life-saving surgery to remove a brain tumour by availing of the medical insurance benefits provided by the Bhamashah Card. Suraj and Devki live in Jodhpur with their three children — daughters Kirti and Jhanvi and son Krishna.

It all started two-three years ago when Suraj suffered from a headache that refused to go away. Initially, he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and doctors gave him some medicines. But the problem persisted. Recently, the family got further medical investigations done and in the first week of June, Suraj was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

The doctors recommended immediate surgery which would cost about INR 1-1.5 Lakh. Any delay in the operation could lead to paralysis or coma, the doctors said.

The family was in panic as they could not afford the surgery. Devki and her kids were in trauma at the thought of losing Suraj because of lack of funds for his treatment. The doctors told them to take him to another hospital.

At this fateful time, when Devki was preparing to shift him to another hospital, she remembered her Bhamashah Card. She asked the doctors at Goyal Hospital, a private hospital in Jodhpur where Suraj was being treated, whether she could avail of any healthcare benefits against her card. The doctors said they would check if she was entitled to any medical benefits. Just as she was preparing to shift Suraj to another hospital, the doctors called her saying that she could indeed use the Bhamashah Card for Suraj’s surgery — the card provides beneficiaries up to Rs 3 Lakh in medical insurance cover annually.

Her Bhamashah Card was active, but needed further activation from the central office in Jaipur. The hospital staff helped her with the activation and with other formalities for availing of the medical insurance. Within a few days, the surgery was performed and it went off well. Suraj’s life was saved. The insurance covered the cost of medicines and ICU care as long as her husband was in hospital.

Devki and her kids’ happiness knows no bounds. The Inc42 team met and spoke to an emotional Devki during our trip to Jodhpur.

“If I didn’t have the Bhamashah Card, my husband wouldn’t have been alive today. After his treatment for the last couple of years, I didn’t have any money or savings left for his surgery. It’s only because of the financial benefits offered by the Card that my three children still have a father,” Devki shared with the Inc42 team, tears of happiness and relief in her eyes.

Devki had to shell out a total expenses of INR 30,000 – INR 40,000 on Suraj’s treatment, but this money was spent on tests such as CT Scan, MRI, etc, before the activation of the Bhamashah Card. After the activation of the Card, no major expenses were incurred by Devki at the hospital.

Post-operative medical care will continue for the next two-three years, but such expenses are not covered under the card. Suraj and Devki will have to buy the medicines on their own. However, the major cost of the surgery has been covered by the card and the family can’t thank the state government enough.

‘The Bhamashah Card Should Provide Education Support As Well’

Suraj had to give up his job because of his illness. Devki now works for a private establishment to fend for the family. She told the Inc42 team that while she is thankful for the healthcare support provided by the state government, it is difficult for her to manage the education expenses of her kids. “I wish the government would provide us with support to meet our children’s education expenses as well,” said Devki.

She believes that it is crucial for her to educate her children well so they can slowly recover from the financial setback of Suraj’s illness and make a better life for themselves. And support from the government is essential for women like her. She is hopeful that Inc42 will be able to get her message across to the people who matter.

Devki and Suraj have gained some fame in their neighbourhood after the incident. In fact, Devki has taken it upon herself to spread awareness about the Bhamashah Card so that other women like her can use it to provide much-needed medical care to their family members.

It’s stories such as these that help us keep the faith in a better tomorrow, in fact a better today, for the underprivileged in our country.

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Day 2: July 8, 8 PM

Healthcare & Food Subsidies Making Bhamashah Card Popular Among Women In Rajasthan

The women in Jodhpur mostly use basic mobile phones, except younger women who have access to smartphones. The ones who have access to smartphones mostly use Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

In a group discussion in Jodhpur, the Inc42 team heard stories of how women in the city are simplifying their lives by using mobile phones and by adopting government schemes such as the Bhamashah card.

So, how is the Bhamashah Card proving to be a boon for the women in Rajasthan?

The Bhamashah card is very popular among people of the state for the benefits it brings them. The bank accounts of women beneficiaries are linked to the card. Devki, a woman from Jodhpur, benefited from the Bhamashah Card immensely — she could get her husband’s brain tumour treated thanks to the card. The surgery, which would otherwise cost INR 1 Lakh to INR 1.5 Lakh ($1,456-$2,185), cost her just INR 30,000 – INR 40,000 ($437-$582). They could avail of ICU facilities and free medicines on furnishing the Bhamashah Card in the hospital.

Bhamashah Card holders are entitled to receive medical benefits up to INR 30,000 ($437) for common illnesses and minor ailments and INR up to 50,000 ($728) for critical ailments annually. Besides, the Janani Suraksha Yojna provides INR 50,000 ($728) to women beneficiaries on the birth of a child; the money is transferred in instalments directly to their Bhamashah-linked bank accounts. This is a big driver for women to undergo deliveries in hospitals, thus reducing instances of maternal child death in the state.

Apart from healthcare, the Bhamashah Card also takes care of people’s sustenance needs. Bhamashah cardholders can avail of ration at subsidised rates. Foodgrain of 5 kg is made available at the rate of INR 2 per kg. Women can avail of this subsidized ration for their families; they receive notifications on their phones about the ration rates and offers.

The Aadhar card too is helping women with LPG subsidies of INR 150 – INR 200 ($1.4-$2.2) per cylinder, which is transferred directly to their bank accounts.

On the other hand, initiatives such as e-mitra have made documentation, correction of personal details, form deposits, etc, very easy and almost every woman in the city, irrespective of age, uses e-mitra regularly.

The Pressing Need Of Digital Schemes For Women In Rajasthan

The government has launched another scheme — e-sakhi — but awareness about the scheme is a bit low because it is relatively new. The women of Jodhpur feel that there need to be more awareness drives on the government’s digital schemes and their benefits.

While the women are happy with the healthcare and food benefits the Bhamashah Card provides, they collectively voiced a demand for educational benefits such as fee waivers and scholarships for children, especially for the girl child. Currently, the card doesn’t provide any education benefits. The women want subsidies in school fees because education expenses are high.

The Digitally Empowered Women Of Rajasthan

The healthcare benefits and incentives provided through the Bhamashah Card are resulting in reduced death and mortality rates. Women feel more empowered because of the financial independence the card is according to them. They now have a say in family matters and decisions and shared with us how this has fueled a revolution of gender equality in the state.

‘’Women are now truly empowered; they are acting as heads of their families. We no longer depend on anyone in the family. In fact, our family members now depend on us,’’ said one of the participants of the discussion.

Mobile phones have become an integral part of the lives of women in Rajasthan. The receive various reminders and updates about schemes via messages. Connectivity us much better and they are now able to easily communicate with their relatives in remote areas of the state. While the elderly women believe that the Internet and smartphones have distanced people from each other, the younger women feel they have made it easier for them not only to connect with their friends and family but also to stay updated with what’s happening around them.

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Day 2: July 8, 6:30 PM

Meet Mahesh Singh, An Entrepreneur Building the ‘Google’ Of Pali

In the second half of the day, the Inc42 team met a young entrepreneur named Mahesh Singh Parihar. The 21-year-old, a Class XII passout, is building what you could call the Google of Pali — a digital advertising solution called Digital Pali.

Digital Pali is a listings website for local businesses in Pali under heads such as ‘Top Business’, ‘Public Sector’, ‘Jobs In Pali’, ‘Tourism’, and an option to ‘Explore Places by Categories’.

Intrigued by his venture, the Inc42 team asked Mahesh a lot of questions, which he answered patiently. Talking about his background, he told us that his father moved from Pali to Maharashtra at the age of 16 in search of employment. He got into the manufacturing and wholesale business of carry bags and then grass brooms. His grass broom business, Radhika Enterprises, did well in Maharashtra and then he expanded it to his hometown Pali.

Born and brought up in Maharashtra, Mahesh shifted back to his ancestral village Pali nine months ago where he manages the family business alongside his startup.  One of his friends from school started Digital Rajsamand, a digital advertising company, which received a good response. This spurred the duo to expand the chain to other districts. They wish to cover all the major districts of Rajasthan.

Currently, Digital Rajsamand, Digital Bikaner, Digital Chittorgarh, and Digital Pali are functional.

The current investment in this venture is approximately INR 50,000 ($726) – INR 60,000 ($871). The founders plan to bring all four websites, along with that of another district, under a single parent company. They are investing their savings in the expansion.

Insight of the day: Digitisation has reduced rural migration as the rural youth is now experimenting and venturing into unconventional business opportunities created by digital platforms.

Coming back to Digital Pali, the platform provides online advertising solutions to local businesses at an affordable price. It provides the maps and contact details of local enterprises of Pali on the online platform, right from banks, educational institutions, ATMs to salons, restaurants, etc. The platform facilitates direct interaction between buyers and sellers.

They have managed to onboard a total of 81 customers in the last three months, out of which 28 have paid annual subscription fees to the startup. Digital Pali charges a yearly subscription fee of INR 1,000 whereas similar online listings platforms like JustDial go as high as INR 27, 000.

“Small businesses find it difficult to list on platforms such as Amazon, JustDial, IndiaMart, etc, because of the stringent procedure, documentation, and hefty charges. This is where our local platform comes in by furnishing an integrated business listing and advertising solution. We further plan to branch out in areas such as online selling, online job listings, event listings, etc,” said Mahesh.

Businesses create their profiles on the Digital Pali website to showcase pictures of their products online. They share the link of their profile with customers over WhatsApp as a showcase of their products instead of sharing multiple images.

There has been a major shift in the mindset of local business owners about digitisation. They are increasingly getting inclined towards going online due to the ease, low cost, and evident benefits this brings to their profits.

Digital Pali also acts as an employment portal by listing local vacancies, thereby connecting employers and job seekers.

Buyers, meanwhile, are actively using the platform to find out about nearby stores, products, and services. This is reflective of the widespread availability and use of Internet services in the district.

Digital Pali hosted an online contest on World Music Day on Facebook and Instagram to promote and increase youth engagement. Youth in Pali actively use social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, etc. Apps such as Musically, LIKE, etc are also popular here. They are using these platforms to showcase their talent and to be on par with global trends.

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Day 2: July 8, 2:30 PM

It’s A Woman’s World Today, Say The Men In Rajasthan

Place: Bangur, Pali

DI Participant: Jai Mala Rathore (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife)

On Sunday (July 8), as the rest of you were doing your Sunday brunches and enjoying your siestas, the Inc42 team was braving the blistering 40°C heat in Pali to met Jai Mala Rathore (pic below)), who works as an auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM). She told the team that ANMs have been provided with tablets by the government to maintain records, etc. There is a software in place for the same, which has increased the speed of their work by three times.

Earlier, ANMs were wasting a lot of time and paper in maintaining records manually; this also increased the scope for error.

However, poor Internet connectivity is a major challenge in implementing the new system. In such a case, the ANMs data submit their tablets to primary healthcare centres (PHCs) every month and the data is updated on a monthly basis. The information is then collated and updated on a common platform/software. But, there is no online system for direct data transmission.

The digitisation of the process has reduced wastage of paper, time, and effort. Beneficiaries receive system-generated reminders on their phones via SMS about due vaccination dates, etc. Earlier the ANMs used to go from door to door to remind women of these things.

ANMs also record Bhamashah, Adhaar, bank account, and contact details on the online software. They also maintain details of every medical check-up, vaccination, symptoms, etc of mothers and children on the software.

Beneficiaries receive regular messages about the benefits available to them, such as free medicines, free medical checkup, monetary support, etc.  Some monetary benefit schemes include INR 1,400 on laparoscopy (upon provision of evidence), INR 5,000 on the birth of the first child, and additional INR 2,500 on the birth of a girl child, among others. These monetary incentives are transferred directly to women beneficiaries’ bank accounts, which are linked to their Bhamashah Card, thereby avoiding any leakages. It was earlier a big challenge to ensure that the incentives are received by the correct beneficiaries.

Further, women can send messages to ANMs on their medicine and other healthcare needs. This enables the health workers to provide prompt support to the women.

It has now also become easy to reach out and avail of medical services such as ambulances, ANM support, etc, because of widespread mobile phone penetration among rural women. Women receive notifications on their mobile phones regarding services such as the Bhamashah Yojana etc and also get reminder notifications about medicines, vaccinations, and other check-ups.

All of this has spurred a paradigm shift in the rural/semi-urban area because women and children are at the centre of the benefits and services and technology is bridging the gender gap here. Jai Mala Rathore says men come and tell ANMs like her that “ab toh sirf aurato ka hi zamana hai’ it’s a woman’s world today).

Due to increased digitisation of such government services and benefits, the large number of health-related issues (of both mother and child), such as maternal and child deaths, anaemia, pregnancy-related issues, prenatal problems, etc are quite well addressed. This, in turn, has a far-reaching impact on the overall health of families in rural Rajasthan.

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Day 1: July 7, 7:00 PM

The Unexpected Lead To Another Digital Rajasthan Story: ‘RSCIT’

The next stop, Merta in Nagaur district, initially didn’t turn out to be as expected for the Inc42 team as due to some confusion, the scheduled meeting got cancelled. We were left wandering in a little town where the roads were abuzz with activity.

While walking through the village, we observed a few small children going for classes to a coaching institute that predominantly displayed the word RSCIT (Rajasthan State Certificate Course in Information Technology). The team decided to follow the students as they walked up to the coaching class. At the centre, we saw people of all ages sitting at about 15 computers.

This is where the Inc42 team found our next story about digital Rajasthan waiting for us.

We met one Govind Singh, who’s been running Jai Shree Computers since 2004. He started with teaching villagers MS Office and accounting. He also earlier offered a professional course in computers including an introduction to C language, programming fundamentals, and HTML.

“There isn’t any demand here for advanced computer courses because we need to start teaching them from the point of how to hold a mouse,” said Singh.

Singh was quite friendly and got talking further with the Inc42 team about his journey.

“I am from a village which is 22km away from here and I came to Merta city to pursue my higher secondary, but I quit the course to learn computers from Aptech. I did a one-year diploma at Aptech in 2000 and then I finished my graduation privately in arts. After that, I worked at Aptech as a teacher. The idea to start this coaching centre came when Aptech closed down in 2003,” he said.

He took a loan of INR 50K ($726) from the Central Bank of India under the Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Yojana, set up two computers and started teaching computers to the villagers.

“I started RSCIT in 2009 with a batch of just 30 students, including some government employees and others who were preparing for government jobs,” said Singh.

He added that after doing the RSCIT course, students can get clerical-level jobs like registrars in courts and MS Office operators. Many government jobs are making RSCIT compulsory, thereby giving more job opportunities to the state’s youth.

The RSCIT recently made a change where topics related to e-transactions through mobile apps were included; the earlier version included only MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint, and Internet basics.

Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the number of students doing the course. Earlier, the average enrolment was 15-20 government employees. Now, it is 150-200 every year now, with a majority of the batch consisting of Class X students.

“In the summer, we get between 150-200 kids every year, on an average. There are no enrolment criteria in terms of age or qualifications, but most of them are Class X passouts,” he said.

Singh further disclosed that in a year, the institute earns between INR 3-3.5 Lakh ($4,358-$5,085). “Many of our students pass out and become RSCIT teachers, earning around INR 5K-6K ($72-$87) per month as starting salary (all of them are also preparing for entrance exams on the side),” he added.

The business is seasonal in nature and Singh says once the summer holidays are over, he waits for next April to arrive. To diversify the risk, he has set up a library which charges INR 300 a day. This may seem steep, but he says he has to compensate the running costs, which include a newly installed AC.

It was interesting to learn that the number of boys and girls who enrol for the course is about the same. Singh attributes this to the changing mindset of people, who are now willing to let their daughters pursue higher studies and look for job opportunities.

Singh also recently underwent a training for the Rajasthan government’s e-Sakhi program, where he will train girls aged between 18-33 who will, in turn, go on to educate other people about the nuances of digital transactions.

It was a long day yesterday (July 7) and the Inc42 team is back on the road heading to Pali.

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Day 1: July 7, 3:30 PM

E-Mitra, Soil Health Card, Kisan Card, And E-Mandi: Digital Services Are Now Part Of Farmers’ Daily Lives

Time: July 7, 12:00 noon

Place: Gugarwar Village (Nagaur District)

Group Discussion in Nagaur with farmers

Participants: Mangilal, Birlaram, Ramdev, Peparam, Rameshwar lal, Azi Ram

After the visit to Madan Lal’s home, the Inc42 team sat down with a group of farmers underneath a neem tree, with birds chirping, cattle lazing around, and a gentle breeze giving relief from the afternoon heat in the desert state of Rajasthan.

The discussion was aimed at understanding the experience of farmers on using digital services and also the benefits of various initiatives of the government — The Kisan Card, Soil Health Card — for them.

The discussion threw up the following experiences of the farmers:

E-mitra: The local authority of the village or the patwari, as he is commonly called, regularly assesses the farmlands of the village and their yield. As per the data collected by the patwari, the farmers are issued a token from the e-mitra kiosk that they can use at the kisan mandi for further transactions so that payments are made directly into their bank accounts.

The Kisan Card: The Kisan Card enables villagers to avail of loans worth up to INR 3 Lakh ($4.3K) at an interest rate of 7% and at just 4% in case of early payments. The interest amount charged by private moneylenders is a steep 24%.

The Kisan Card, however, has low penetration. Only the farmers associated with co-operative societies were using the Kisan Card. Further, there is no insurance for crops even though the insurance amount is deducted from the loan amount and no other noteworthy insurance benefits are provided.

The Soil Health Card: The Krishi Department regularly checks and furnishes a detailed report on the health of the soil and its components. This is very advantageous to the farmers as they get to know the contents of the soil and can use chemicals and pesticides accordingly for better-quality produce.

Subsidies: The state government offers subsidies of INR 85K ($1,235) to INR 90K ($1307) to build storage areas such as covered sheds or warehouses on their farmlands to store produce. Farmers have to apply for the subsidy when they make such structures, and the amount is transferred directly into their bank accounts.

E-Mandi: The e-mandi has benefited farmers in more ways than one by removing middleman, giving farmers a minimum support price (MSP) as digitising transactions. The challenge, however, is that the government buys part of the crop and not the entire yield. The farmers are then updated about the same via a message on their mobile phones.

The discussion brought forth a mixed bag of experiences on the part of the farmers. Soon it was time for the Inc42 team to drive on to our next stop.

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Day 1: July 7, 1:30 PM

E-NAM Mandi System A Boon For Farmers Of Gugarwar Village

The destination for the day was the house of Madan Lal, the father of Rajendra Lora, who has set up FreshoKartz Agri Products, an ecommerce marketplace for fruits and vegetables in Jaipur. Madan Lal and his fellow farmers assembled to meet, greet, and interact with the Inc42 team.

Visit any village in India and the warmth and simplicity of its people is sure to engulf the visitors and that was seen here as well. We were served tea and cold drinks by the hospitable villagers.

Curious about why the Inc42 team was there, the villagers had all sorts of questions about where we came from, the purpose behind our visit, and, most of all, if Inc42 was related to farming.

The villagers were slightly disappointed when they learned that Inc42 had nothing to do with farming but were still eager to tell us their stories. We first spoke with Madan Lal, who’s been a farmer for 25 years. He farmed crops like onion and peanuts in an area that hasn’t seen adequate rainfall for decades.

Selling the produce has been and is a major challenge for farmers like him.

Madan said, “The traditional mandi system does not work and we get below par prices and baffling scenarios where sometimes one set of produce gets two sets of prices in the market.’’

The farmers said that the E-NAM mandi system under which the government buys a part of the produce at the minimum support price has been a huge boon for them. For example, earlier the government used to purchase produce for INR 3,600 ($52.35) but now they do it for INR 4,600 ($66.89). The farmers want this initiative by the government to expand to the whole produce as the cost of farming is going up.

Further, Madan also expressed problems that need the government’s attention. For instance, although everyone in the village has mobile phones, many don’t fully comprehend the information or use of services such as the Internet, with newspapers not being widely circulated in the area. Madan also suggested that the government should run awareness campaigns for the people who are currently in farming so that the schemes created by the government benefit them.

With that, the Inc42 team wrapped up the first half of Day 1, swiftly driving to the next destination.

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Day 1: July 7, 10:00 AM

Digital Rajasthan Yatra II Begins

The Inc42 team started the first leg of the second edition of its Digital Rajasthan Yatra at 7 am on July 7 by taking the Jaipur Ajmer Expressway to Gugarwar village, a tiny village in Nagaur District of the state. The journey was smooth for the most part — about two hours — owing to the well-made expressway, after which a stretch of 45km till the Gugarwar village was comprised not so smooth, rural roads.

Here, we are, taking a photo-op break by the highway — Shivam Shrivastav, features writer and Mumbai correspondent at Inc42 (left) and Ajith Sharma, project lead for the Digital Rajasthan Yatra.

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Team Inc42

Inc42 Staff
Inc42 Magazine is an online startup magazine that covers some of the best startups and entrepreneurs in the India ecosystem. We also feature numerous guest posts and resources by leading experts from across the industry, including many from the Silicon Valley and Bay Area.

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