Yakjah Reconciliation and Development Network successfully completed facilitating of ‘Sustainability
Audit: Village Development Field Survey’ as a part of the summer internship of students from IIT Delhi in
District Poonch, J&K. A youth-led non-profit organization Yakjah is working for peacebuilding and youth
development in Jammu and Kashmir.
It cannot be ignored that over 68% of our population actually subsists in the country’s rural areas, often
in deplorable conditions. While there are other serious shortages, power (electricity), water, health
facilities, roads etc are major recognized ones. We all are aware that these shortages exist in the entire rural
belt, however, what we are not fully aware are is the role of technology in rural areas in solving many of
these shortages. The so-called digital divide is widely discussed and written about but the technology
divide is hardly mentioned. Many examples in the country tell us that technology will have the same
impact in rural areas as it is having in urban spaces. Infrastructure and technology are the basics of
development and they facilitate the fast transaction of economy, job creation and opportunities, logistics
and in turn better-living conditions and peace. A beautiful example is the Telecom Revolution in India.
Farmers in rural India are using mobile phones to quickly and effectively share knowledge about the quality
of seeds and fertilizers, to understand what are the prevailing market rates of their produce and also to
interact with their relatives in far off places – all of which was unimaginable some two decades ago. So
what does one do when basic services like electricity or clean drinking water are not easily available?
Well, you innovate using technology.
It is in this context of linking global and national sustainable goals with grassroots reality in Jammu and
Kashmir, the current field study was undertaken to highlight the problems of rural areas in District
Poonch in Jammu Division and come up with a sustainable framework for the development of far-flung
remote villages using technological innovation.
For the field survey, three villages, two from Surankote tehsil and one from Mendhar tehsil were
selected purposively albeit their geographic and socio-economic marginalization largely determined
their selection as an area for field study. The local brigade of the army helped students in reaching the remote
villages and supporting the groundwork for them without which the survey would not have been
Besides interacting with the people of these areas, the interns also interacted with the students of
Degree College, Mendhar and Surankote to have an overview regarding the current scenario of
education in their respective areas especially apprising the girls about career opportunity in STEM.
“Stereotypically while boys are encouraged to take sciences and technology, the ability of girls are
questioned. This needs to be broken”, said Ashima Kaul, Founder Yakjah. More than 200 girls from
Higher Secondary School participated in the interaction session at Mendhar. “It has been a unique
experience for us’, said the IIT Delhi students. The girls inquired how they can get admission in IIT. “We
are inspired by Dr Rehana Bashir who recently cracked IAS. We too can achieve anything”, they said. Dr.
Abdul Rouf said he is happy to see the enthusiasm in girls and will offer all support for starting an
innovation cell in the college.
Based on their observations and interactions during the field survey, the students of IIT Delhi shortlisted
the major problems faced by the villagers that needed urgent attention. Though each village had its own
set of problems and conditions, particular emphasis was laid on the power supply, potable water, women
entrepreneurship, quality education and environmental conservation. The students have submitted a
report of the field survey with preliminary solutions.