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Government Reshuffles Officers To Fast-Track Telecom Connectivity Programs

The department of telecom (DoT) has reconstituted the group of officers assigned to operationalise some of the ambitious mobile connectivity programs such as mega BharatNet-II, Wi-Fi pilots, Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-II and Northeast, including strategic areas along Indo-China border in Arunachal Pradesh.

In an internal notification dated March 5, seen by ET, the department has assigned BharatNet deployment, Wi-Fi pilot initiatives and other common service centers or CSC-related projects to joint administrator Ranjan Ghosh, who was earlier responsible for the provision of mobile services in Northeast region.

The Narendra Modi government has concluded BharatNet-I in December 2018, making as many as 1.25 lakh gram panchayats or village blocks connected with optic fiber-based network, capable to offer high-speed Internet services for the delivery of citizen-centric public services.

However, the Centre aims to deploy BharatNet-II program by March 31, 2019, which, appears to be unlikely due to multiple challenges including the lack of interest among state governments.

The department has also named Deepak Chanduka to head special projects such as providing cellular connectivity in areas affected with left-wing extremism with 4,072 towers in 96 districts across 10 states, sought by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and deployment of 2,817 towers across 4,119 villages in the strategic locations along Indo-China border in Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam.

The critical Northeast connectivity initiatives undertaken by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), are, however, remain nonstarter on the ground, with the state-controlled telco eyeing a go-ahead from the government.

With the department’s top official’s instructions, the current dispensation, however, has a gigantic task to not only kickstart the stalled projects but also to show up some groundwork with only a few weeks to go for the next general election.

The things are likely to move faster as the Prime Minister Office (PMO) is also currently monitoring the telecom connectivity situation in the country.

Miffed with the progress of Modi’s ambitious programs, the Centre has recently replaced the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) administrator Sanjay Kumar Singh with a Bihar cadre officer Ansuli Arya.

Singh, a 1987-batch IAS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre is yet to get his next posting.

USOF is a Rs 48,000 crore strong reserve aimed to run telecom connectivity initiatives in rural and remote regions to bridge the digital divide in the country.―Business Telegraph

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