For farmers in India’s villages, WhatsApp is often literally a life-saver


Be it fake news or sexist uncle jokes, most WhatsApp groups are just not worth your time. Yes, you’re not the only one who puts group chats on mute.

In Bharat, however, WhatsApp has, by its innate simplicity, become integral to people’s lives in a way no other social network has. This has been accompanied by the rise of several WhatsApp groups that have had a huge impact on those living in rural India.

We bring you two such stories of farmers from two different parts of India, with very different needs, who have both benefitted from the communities forged by such WhatsApp groups.

Also read Tech Meets Bharat stories

Helping Vidarbha’s farmers

Gajanan Patond, a 26-year-old farmer from Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, was neck deep in debt after two consecutive years of drought and the marriage of his sister. By the middle of 2016, his debts had risen to Rs 3.5 lakh.

Moneylenders would come banging at his door every day, asking to be repaid. Unable to figure a way out, he attempted suicide, but survived.

A friend shared his story on the WhatsApp group of Yuvarashtra, an organisation which works with distressed farmers and families of those who commit suicide.

Watch how Gajanan’s life changed with the help of Yuvarashtra’s WhatsApp members.

Emergency helpline for farmers in Himachal Pradesh

Naveen Awasthi, 28, is staring into his phone. “Can you keep your phone down for some time and finish your tea?” shouts his mother.

With India’s rising obsession with smartphones, this is the usual scene in most houses in India these days. But, what happens next is not usual.

“I’m on WhatsApp,” Naveen tells her, and she nods approvingly.

Naveen explains: “She understands how much WhatsApp has helped me with my work.”

Naveen is a first-generation dairy farmer, with little experience in this line of work. Life in the mountains is tough, especially in the winter. On one such morning in December, at 3am, one of his cows, Gaantu, fell ill. Getting a doctor to visit before 10am was out of the question, and taking the sick animal to a veterinarian in Palampur, 30km away, was very difficult. He thought Gaantu was going to die until he remembered a WhatsApp group set up by an agricultural research scholar.

Watch in the video above how the WhatsApp group helped Naveen save his cow in the middle of the night.


               

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Lead visual: Nikhil Raj