ISRO has initiated the setting up of the VRC with a view to integrate its capabilities in satellite communications and satellite based earth observations to disseminate a variety of services emanating from the space systems and other IT tools to address the changing and critical needs of the rural community. This project strives to promote a need based single window delivery system for providing services in the areas of education, health, nutrition, weather, environment, agriculture and livelihoods to the rural population and to empower them to face the challenges. The VRC is a totally interactive VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) based network. VRCs will be set up in association with grass root level organisations, who have a strong field presence and experience of mobilising communities to act for development and proven track record.
VRCs will provide a variety of services like telemedicine, tele-education, data base on the natural resources, interactive farmers’ advisories on agriculture, fisheries, weather etc. The VRCs will be managed by the associating agency and it is the capability of the associating agency to make value addition on the services provided. They can also dovetail their existing rural development programmes to VRC.
The overall implementation of the project will be jointly by ISRO and the associating agency. The associating agency is expected to set up the required infrastructure and required manpower to manage the VRCs. ISRO will provide the satellite connectivity for communication, tele-education, telemedicine and required equipment. The monitoring of the progress of the project and also the quality of the technical input/output etc will be evaluated time to time and based on this proper corrective measures will be taken up.
NESAC has coordinated the identification of associating agency, site surveying, installation, commissioning, training and creation of natural resource database of the target villages using RS & GIS technology for the VRC network in NER.
Status of VRC Network in the NER (Assam)
In Assam, a partnership between ISRO and Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA) has been formed to commission VRC network in the rural areas of Assam to uplift the life and livelihood of the people. ABITA Gramin Krishi Unnayan Prakalpa (ABITA-GKUP) is working as the associating agency which has taken the overall responsibility of operating 10 VRCs in 10 selected village clusters of Assam covering 109 villages and a population of 1, 20, 501. The locations are Lohowal, Moran, Binduguri, Doomdooma, Paneri, Borgang, Lakhimpur, Margherita, Sonari & Mariani.This network has 3 expert VRCs located at ABITA-GKUP office, Guwahati; NESAC, Shillong and Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat. This VRC network was inaugurated by Sri Tarun Gogoi, Honorable Chief Minister of Assam in the month of November, 2008.
Beside this live interactive programme, NESAC has particularly contributed towards the Content generation on regular basis from its expert node through a FTP server. The contents are mainly on Natural Resource (NR) management, Agriculture Planning Service (APS), Agro-met advisory (AMA), daily weather bulletin etc.
Hundred of interactive training programmes has been already conducted for the farmers of the identified villages by the all the three expert centres. Two very important national level programmes have been conducted from VRC expert node at NESAC. These are as follows:
National Virtual Congress of Farmers’ as part of the program of the 96th Indian Science Congress hosted by North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong. A large numbers of agricultural scientists from all over India were interacted live with the farmers and agriculture officer of Assam through Video Conferencing regarding various problem and issues related to agriculture.
‘National Virtual Congress’ on 06th June, 2009 under the 1st Indian Youth Congress organized by MSSRF, Chennai at Rajiv Gandhi National Institute for Youth Development, Sriperumbudur, Chennai A number of woman farmers and entrepreneurs along with Senior Scientists of ICAR, Umiam had participated in the video conferencing and interacted with Dr. M S Swaminathan and other experts at Chennai addressing various issues related to Land, Soil, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Climate Change, irrigation and water supply etc. for Cherapunji, Meghalaya.
In Nagaland a VRC network has been commissioned in associations with Nagaland Science & Technology Council (NASTEC). A total of 8 (Eight) VRCs has been commissioned at different villages of Nagaland. The locations are NASTEC, Kohima; NRCM, Medzephima; Village-Porba, Tseminya, Zhadima, Chesezu, Chizami & Civil Hospital, Pfutsero.
In Sikkim a VRC network of 19 nodes (16 Student node, 3 Expert nodes) has been commissioned in associations with Rural Management and Development Department, (RMDD) Govt. of Sikkim, Gangtok. The locations of expert nodes are SIRD, Jorthang; Science Centre, Ranipool; RMDD, Gangtok and locations of student nodes are Block Administrative Office – Kabitingda, Passingdong, Ranka, Khamdong, Rakdongtintek, Rhenock, Rhegu, Duga, Temi, Melli, Wok, Yangang, Daramdin, Dentam, Kaluk and Yuksom. This VRC network is providing good services to the people of Sikkim in the areas of education, health, nutrition, weather, environment, agriculture livelihoods etc.