Mobile connectivity project for 7,000 villages to benefit tribal communities

Official data says over half of the 7,200 uncovered villages fall in the State of Odisha

November 18, 2021 10:25 pm | Updated 10:25 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

A cyclist using his phone at an overpass bridge in Bhubaneswar on November 15, 2021.

A cyclist using his phone at an overpass bridge in Bhubaneswar on November 15, 2021.

More than half of the over 7,200 uncovered villages, which are largely inhabited by people from tribal communities, that the Government aims to provide with 4G connectivity by 2023 at an estimated cost of ₹6,466 crore, fall in the State of Odisha, according to official data.

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved provisioning of mobile services in 7,287 uncovered villages in 44 Aspirational Districts across the five States of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha that are among the most under-developed districts in India.

The decision comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the Birsa Munda museum in Ranchi on the first-ever ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Divas’ or Tribal Pride Day, as part of efforts to reach out to tribal communities ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

While the exact tribal population that will benefit from the decision was not available, an official said it is likely to be in excess of about 36 lakh people across these villages. The decision to bring mobile connectivity to these 40 constituencies can be seen as part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) outreach towards tribal communities.

As per available data, 3,933 of the uncovered villages under the project fall in Odisha. These include districts such as Rayagada (962 villages), Kandhamal (1,094 villages), Malkangiri (306 villages), Gajapati (467 villages), Nabarangapur (17 villages) and Koraput (520 villages), which have more than 50% Scheduled Tribe population according to the 2011 Census. Likewise, of the 700 villages in Chhattisgarh, 418 villages are in districts such as Bijapur, Narayanpur and Bastar, where the tribal population is in majority.

In Jharkhand, 827 uncovered villages will get connectivity across districts such as Bokaro, Hazaribagh, Khunti, Purbi Singhbhum, Sahibganj and Simdega. In Maharashtra, 610 villages will benefit in districts such as Gadchiroli and Nandurbar. About 1,218 villages in Andhra Pradesh will get connectivity across districts of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and YSR. Most of these districts too have significant tribal populations.

According to the Department of Telecom estimates, as of August 2021, 5,72,551 out of 5,97,618 inhabited census villages of the country, including tribal and Left Wing Extremism affected areas, have mobile network coverage, while 25,067 inhabited villages do not have the coverage.

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