Poor telecom connectivity hindering security operations: Assam government
Alarmed at growing use of international SIM cards by insurgents in the north-east and poor mobile connectivity affecting the maintenance of law and order, the Assam government has asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to install more mobile towers in the State, particularly along the international borders and in remote areas.
The Assam government has raised with the DoT the issue of slow pace of expansion of mobile tower infrastructure in the State and sought strengthening of mobile network in “sensitive areas” on priority.
In a letter to Telecom Secretary M.F. Farooqui, Assam Chief Secretary Jitesh Khosla has explained how poor telecom connectivity was hindering security forces in carrying out operations against insurgent groups and manning international borders.
“Due to its geographical location and history of insurgency and extremism, Assam faces many challenges to maintenance of law and order and many threats from forces inimical to national security. It shares a long international border with Bangladesh and Bhutan and faces several serious ethno/communal sub-nationalist conflicts and militancy. Besides, there are equally contentious inter-State border disputes which need constant monitoring. In this background, an effective communication system is sine qua non for effective security monitoring of the State,” says the letter, a copy of which is in the possession of The Hindu.
Pointing out that mobile communication network in Assam is far from satisfactory, particularly in forest and hilly areas, and on inter-State and international borders, the letter says: “Due to several communication shadow areas, some miscreants even use mobile SIM cards of foreign countries. This hinders proper reporting of incidents, effective surveillance and coordinated response by the security forces.”
“Given such a backdrop, it is desirable that the projects for installation of base transmission stations [BTS] in the communication shadow areas of Assam, particularly in Karbi-Anglong, Dima-Hasao, Goalpara, BTAD [Bodo Territorial Autonomous District] areas and along the Assam-Arunachal border and the Assam-Nagaland border be taken up on priority basis,” it adds.
DoT sources said the letter had now been forwarded to the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) Administrator for taking further action. USOF is a government body to which all mobile operators contribute and the money collected is used to strengthen mobile infrastructure in remote and difficult terrains across the country.
Ironically, despite the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommending a four-pronged action plan for improving telecom services in Assam, neither the DoT nor the USOF has managed to implement any plan on the ground. The DoT and the USOF have even failed to implement a Union Home Ministry project, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet last year, to put up over 2,000 towers in nine Naxal-affected States.