At a Review Meeting held in Itanagar today on implementation of BharaNet and other major telecom projects in the North Eastern Region, Union Minister of State for Communications (I/C) Manoj Sinha said that Government has achieved a significant milestone under the BharatNet project by completing Phase-1 and connecting over one lakh Gram Panchayats (GP) across the country with high speed optical fibre network as per the declared deadline of 31st December 2017.
Sinha said that the vision of the Ministry of Communications is to connect the entire country to realise the Prime Minister’s goal of Digital India by bridging the digital divide. The provision of Broadband & Internet services has a positive impact on GDP growth, besides quicker, transparent and cost effective governance. The implementation is expected to be much faster and smoother with the participation of the states.
In the eight States of NER there are 11970 GPs, of which 5858 GPs were taken up in Phase-I and 2281 GPs are Service Ready. The progress of the BharatNet project has been slow in NER due to capacity of agencies implementing the project, various developmental activities like expansion of National Highways, hilly terrain, excessive rainfall and law and order related issues. But we are committed to partner with State Governments to accelerate the pace of implementation.
Given the strategic importance of the North-East, as well as the fact that there are a number of areas which are in remote and hilly locations with poor connectivity; Telecom Commission has approved a comprehensive strategy to implement BharatNet in North East Region (NER). Under this strategy all the uncovered Gram Panchayats in the North-East are to be connected by broadband. 4989 Gram Panchayats in the North-East in 6 States, namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura are being linked through broadband connectivity on Satellite media by December, 2018. The estimated cost of the Satellite Connectivity to these GPs is Rs 733 crore.
Under the Comprehensive Telecom Development Project for NER, 6994 towers are to be setup to provide connectivity to 8621 villages and along the National Highways, at a cost of Rs. 5336 Crore. MOU has been signed between BSNL and USO Fund to setup 2817 mobile towers in Arunachal Pradesh and two Districts of Assam while the work of setting up of 2004 towers in six states has been initiated by Bharti Airtel in December, 2017, which is to be completed in 18 months. For Meghalaya, the Telecom Commission has recommended setting up of 2173 towers on 2G+4G technology at an estimated cost of Rs. 3,911 Crore.
In order to ensure reliability and redundancy in the transmission network and augmentation of transmission media between state capitals in NER, and also between state capitals and district headquarters, BSNL has to set up about 3,000 Km of OFC network at an estimated cost of about Rs. 295.97 Crore. Tender evaluation has been completed and further action is under process. In addition, schemes are also being implemented by BSNL and RailTel for augmentation/ strengthening of OFC between District HQs and Block HQs in North Eastern States.
The Union Minister categorically said that North East Region is accorded the highest priority by the Union Government as is evident from these projects with a total outlay of more than Rs. 10,500 crores. He thanked the State Governments for their participation in the meeting and requested them to provide full support for providing suitable sites for towers, ROW facilitation etc. in order to overcome the shortcoming of telecom connectivity. He said that with the projects being taken up under CTDP for NER, the potential of Digital India would be utilized in transforming the lives of citizens in rural, remote and tribal areas through generation of employment, development of tourism and financial inclusion of citizens.
On the occasion, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu expressed gratitude on the focus and attention the North Eastern States are getting for bringing IT Connectivity from the Union Government. “Despite connectivity bottlenecks and numerous challenges the State continues to face, the State has aggressively proved itself by successfully launching significant IT & e-Governance projects like Arunachal eServices, eILP, CM Helplline, e-Office, e-Cabinet, Secretariat WiFi, Jeevan Pramaan, CPGRAMS, GeM, NSP to name a few. Many projects of importance are in pipeline which varies from education to health, agriculture to cabinet, capacity building to connectivity” Khandu said. He thanked Manoj Sinha ji for holding the review meeting in Itanagar and assured to work with the DOT in fast tracking digital connectivity projects in the state.
The day also marked the launch of mobile connectivity of unconnected villages of NE region, launch of Satellite connectivity of Gram Panchayats under BharatNet, unveiling of vision document of “Ashtamangal” Phase II and handing over of Satellite Phones to Arunachal Pradesh CM Shri Pema Khandu for effective and efficient monitoring of acivities during natural catastrophe or any other eventualities by Union Minister of State for Communications (IC) Manoj Sinha.