S. P. Kaushal, a medical practitioner-cum-chemist, now places his orders on e-mail. A bumpy road, that is perennially submerged in ankle-deep muck, leads to his clinic-cum-cyber dhaba in Chauri village in Basti district. Kaushal has been instrumental in effecting the e-revolution in this village, dominated by scheduled castes, who contribute 80 per cent of his total mobile PCO billing.
Kaushal is just one link in the revolution sweeping dusty Eastern UP villages. Like a backward farmer's 26-year-old wife, Sandhya, who now preens herself as she handles mouse along with coating her cyber dhaba floor with fresh cowdung. Sandhya's 11-year-old son is already through with Window 98 and e-mail, while her village Fattekhera, 38 kms away from the State capital, is still coming to terms with the swanky gadget. "It will take at least a year for the villagers to discard postcards for e-mails," says Kaushal.
Even though mobile PCOs and e-mail are in an incipient stage, the cyber revolution has travelled village roads faster than the jumbo-sized Telecom Department. And deeper. The nearest P & T PCO from Umesh Kumar's mobile PCO in Bahurawan Bazar in Sultanpur district, is 9 kms away.
But distance is not the only reason for the popularity of mobile PCOs. "The public telephone at the Gram Pradhan's house serves no purpose," says Jalalludin, awaiting a call at Ram Kewal Yadav's PCO in Baghauna village, Sultanpur district. "The Pradhan gets so irritated by our using the phone, which he believes is his personal, that he never informs us about the incoming calls." Yadav operates the PCO from his cycle repair shop, which doubles for an ice-cream store in the summer.