They have become vulnerable targets and are often destroyed by the Maoists

The Centre has started work on installing over 550 new mobile towers to boost communication facilities in the Naxal-affected districts in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar.

“The state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) has already started work on the project so that adequate communication facility could be provided to security personnel and citizens living in these three States. We have provided adequate funds to the telecom company as the completion of the project is our topmost priority,” Union Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot told The Hindu.

A maximum of 276 new towers will be installed in the seven violence-hit districts of Chhattisgarh, 152 towers in 18 districts of Jharkhand and 98 in six districts of Bihar. Though there are already 879 towers in these districts in Jharkhand, 430 in Chhattisgarh and 206 in Bihar, Naxalites keep targeting these towers so that the government machinery cannot remain in contact, affecting its work and coordination.

Vulnerable targets

“Mobile towers have become vulnerable targets and are often destroyed by the Maoists. The BSNL as well as private operators are finding it hard to re-erect destroyed towers due to security and financial reasons. But we have directed BSNL officials to keep spreading their network irrespective of disruptions by Naxalites. The absence of a mobile network is a severe handicap for the security forces in these areas, especially when there is a need to attend to a crisis like sending reinforcements during an operation. For us, every additional village in the network is an asset. Our goal is to ensure that our services reach people living in far-flung areas,” Mr. Pilot said.

The Minister, who recently visited these States, said the focus was on erecting towers in the worst-affected districts such as Bastar (31 new towers being installed), Dantewada (28 towers), Rajnandgaon (31) and Sarguja (121) in Chhattisgarh; 33 new towers would come up in Gaya, 26 in Jamul and 8 in Jehanabad districts in Bihar. Similarly, in Jharkhand, almost all backward districts have been covered under the project.

The BSNL has also been asked to strengthen its communication network along the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar.

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