Project cleared for 9 Left-wing affected States

Tuesday’s Maoist attack on security forces in Chhattisgarh has once again highlighted the need for the much-delayed mobile towers project in nine States affected by left-wing extremism.

Despite its getting clearance last June from the Union Cabinet, which set a 12-month deadline, the project hit a roadblock over cost issues between the funding agency — the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)— and the operator, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd

A final decision has to be taken by the Department of Telecom’s highest decision-making body, the Telecom Commission, but a crucial meeting on the issue has been postponed at least twice.

“We might have the meeting next week but it is not finalised yet,” Telecom Secretary M.F. Farooqui told journalists here when asked about the progress of the project. Government sources said the project was stuck in an error made while reporting certain cost aspects like revision in VSAT charges for rolling out the network.

More funds

A sum of Rs.789 crore is needed over and above the Rs.3,046-crore fund approved by the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs for installing 2,199 towers in rural and remote areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

The undue delay in the project has been taken up with the Prime Minister's Office by the Home Ministry, particularly after requests from the security forces.

More In: National | News