Itanagar, Apr 26: Admitting the slow pace of BharatNet project in the Northeast, Union Minister Manoj Sinha on Thursday attributed it to the capacity of the implementing agencies, developmental activities like expansion of National Highways besides hilly terrain, excessive rainfall and law and order related issues.
“We are committed to partner with State governments of the region to accelerate the pace in the implementation of the project,” the Union Minister of State for Communication (Independent Charge) told reporters here after a review meeting here with Chief Minister Pema Khandu and other State government officials, including officials from telecom giants BSNL.
The meeting was held to review the implementation of BharatNet and other major telecom projects in the North Eastern States to realize Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of Digital India by bridging the digital chasm. He said that the government had achieved a significant milestone under the project by completing Phase-I and connecting over 1 lakh gram panchayats across the country with high-speed optical fibre network as per the declared deadline of December 31, 2017.
He said, out of the 11,970 gram panchayats in the Northeast, around 5,858 were taken up in the first phase and 2,281 gram panchayats are ready for service.
The minister said that considering the strategic importance of the region, the Telecom Commission has approved a comprehensive strategy to implement BharatNet in the Northeast.
“Under this strategy, all the uncovered gram panchayats in the region especially in 6 NE States – Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura— will be linked through broadband connectivity on satellite media by December 2018 with an estimated cost of Rs 733 crore,” Sinha added.
He said under the Comprehensive Telecom Development Project for the Northeast, around 6,994 towers would be set up to provide connectivity to 8,621 villages and along the national highways at a cost of Rs 5,336 crore.
“MoU has already been signed between BSNL and USO Fund to set up 2,817 towers in Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam, while the work of setting up of 2,004 towers in 6 States has been initiated by Bharti Airtel since December last year, which is to be completed in 18 months,” he said.
“For Meghalaya, the Telecom Commission has recommended setting up of 2,173 towers on 2G+4G technology at an estimated cost of Rs 3,911 crore,” he added.
Sinha said in order to ensure reliability and redundancy in the transmission network and augmentation of transmission media between State capitals in the region and also between State capitals and district headquarters, BSNL would set up about 3,000- km of OFC network at an estimated cost of Rs 295.97 crore.
He said that for disaster management, satellite phones would be provided to armed forces in the border areas and police to cope up with natural calamities or any other eventualities. The minister, during the day, also handed over four satellite phones to Khandu.
The minister also launched mobile connectivity of unconnected villages of Northeast, satellite connectivity of gram panchayats under BharatNet and unveiled the vision document of ‘Ashtamangal’ Phase II.
“The second phase of BharatNet and Ashtamangal would be completed by December this year or March next year,” Sinha added.