‘Northeast needs calling facility more than Internet’

Pie in the sky:The MoU with BSNL is only on paper and the construction of towers has not been approved, Ninong Ering said in a letter to the Telecom Minister.

Pie in the sky:The MoU with BSNL is only on paper and the construction of towers has not been approved, Ninong Ering said in a letter to the Telecom Minister.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan


BSNL MoU must be implemented quickly for security reasons, says MP

A recent Chinese incursion into Arunachal Pradesh could have been averted had there been effective mobile connectivity in the area, says a Member of Parliament who has cautioned that the poor telecom infrastructure in the northeast is now a serious security threat to India.

Ninong Ering, representing Arunachal East constituency in the Lok Sabha, in a recent letter to Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha, has pointed out that failure of the government to provide basic communication services in the region may have led to a delayed response from the army following the incursion by Chinese troops in December into Bishing village of Arunachal Pradesh.

‘Information lag’

“…the connectivity on all [points of] the Chinese border is very important. As you must have witnessed during the last incursion of Chinese in Bishing in Tuting area of Arunachal Pradesh, the information received by the Army personnel was very late,” Mr. Ering said in the letter.

“If the mobile tower had been installed, the incursion could have been stopped,” he added.

In the last week of December, a group of Chinese undertook track alignment activity about 1 km inside the Line of Actual Control at Tuting. This was noticed by some locals, who then alerted the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), who informed the Army. On December 28, a joint team of the Army and the ITBP stopped them, following which they left. The transgressions across the Line of Actual Control by China are a regular occurrence, he said.

“If there [had been a] mobile network in Bishing village, somebody could have called and informed the Army that something like this [incursion] is happening. Across the border, they [Chinese] have all facilities. Even the roads have actually come up till Bishing, whereas from the Indian side it takes about 3-4 days of march… the basic infrastructure should be there so that people in advent of any kind of emergency can call,” Mr. Ering told The Hindu.

Chinese networks

He added that most times people are able to latch on to the Chinese telecom network. “We are Indians and we are unable to use Indian networks here.”

Improving mobile connectivity in the northeast region was one of the pet projects of the NDA government. However, it has suffered repeated delays due to issues with equipment testing and “indecisiveness from USOF,” accompanied by a difficult terrain. It is targeted to be completed by March 2019.

Sept. 2014 go-ahead

The government gave a go ahead to the Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for the North-Eastern Regions — aimed at providing mobile coverage to 8,621 identified, uncovered villages by installation of about 6,673 mobile towers and 321 mobile tower sites along National Highways, in September 2014.

Of this, about 2,000 towers were to come up in remote villages of Arunachal Pradesh, three of which were approved for Bishing, where the Chinese intrusion took place.

With an estimated cost of more than ₹5,000 crore, the project was to bring connectivity to strategically important states such as Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim that share borders with China. It was to be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), under the DoT.

An MoU was signed between the BSNL and USOF to set up 2,817 mobile towers by BSNL recently, while the work of setting up of 2,004 towers in six other States had been initiated by Bharti Airtel in December 2017 and is expected to be completed in 18 months.

“... the MoU is only in paper and the construction of these towers has not been approved,” Mr. Ering said in the letter, while requesting Mr. Sinha to ensure that the MoU was immediately implemented.

Mr. Ering told The Hindu that while it was good the government was discussing bringing 4G technology to the northeast, “the fact is that more than Internet and access to social media, there is a need for basic calling facility.”

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 10:45:05 PM |

Next Story