National

Congress allegations are misleading, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

Former IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.  

A day after the Congress linked the ouster of Ravi Shankar Prasad with large-scale corruption in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the former Union Minister termed the allegations false and misleading.

Mr. Prasad said the allegations were made in the context of some preliminary observations in the audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in relation to which a suitable response was being given by the Ministry and thereafter the final report would be prepared.

“The National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), during UPA, did not even take off at all...With the involvement of CSC SPV where the Chairman is Secretary, MeitY, usage of BharatNet has grown manifold. All this has been done with the due approval of the Digital Communications Commission,” Mr. Prasad said.

In its preliminary finding, the CAG said the Narendra Modi government’s BharatNet programme, which intends to connect six lakh villages with high-speed Internet, failed to take off due to financial irregularities, and despite a huge payment to the common service centres (CSCs), the maintenance of cable and other infrastructure was not found efficient in various circles.

“CSC has done the BharatNet operation and maintenance work at a much lesser cost than any other organisation. Due to the efforts made by CSC in improving the BharatNet network, the utilisation of the network in terms of number of FTTH connections and data consumption has increased immensely,” Mr. Prasad said.

“It is to be noted that under the present government, the Ministry of Communications has grown from the dark days of 2G during the UPA to the 4G regime and it is on the way to 5G. It is difficult for the Congress to understand that under the NDA government the role of middlemen and lobbyists has been eliminated and decisions are being taken on merit and fairness,” Mr. Prasad said, adding that the country had not forgotten how bouncers and middlemen had crowded the Sanchar Bhawan during the UPA regime for the award of licences.

Government sources said thet report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was a preliminary one and that a suitable response to the queries raised was being prepared. “The work of Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of BharatNet was awarded to CSC at a very competitive cost of ₹800 per km per month for O&M of Optical Fiber and installation of WiFi Access points at ₹80,000 per WiFi access point.

Significant savings to government

Therefore, giving the work of O&M of BharatNet to Common Services Centre (CSC) led to “significant savings to the government,” said a government source.

Sources said even according to the preliminary report of the CAG, works have been awarded on nomination basis by BBNL to BSNL, Railtel and Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) for NOFN Phase-1 in May 2013; to C-DOT for Network Management Solutions on 22.04.2013; and to TCIL for Primavera on 25.03.2013.

Later work for WiFi Access Points was awarded to CSC on 31.03.2017, 02.02.2018 and to RajCOMP Info Services Private Limited (RISL) on 29.09.2018 on nomination basis. “So not just CSC, but other government organisations have also been awarded BharatNet works on nomination basis with due approval of the Government,” said the source.


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 5:49:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/congress-allegations-misleading-ravi-shankar-prasad/article35394946.ece

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