Fearing that the work done on BharatNet – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project to connect gram panchayats (GPs) in the country – will be lost, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan has warned the chiefs of state-owned BBNL and BSNL that strict action would be taken against them as the project is not progressing as desired.
Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) are the main infrastructure companies under the government that are working on the project to connect 2.5 lakh GPs with high-speed internet by March 2019. In a letter to Sanjay Singh, CMD, BBNL, and Anupam Srivastava, CMD, BSNL, Sundararajan said extensive field reports have been received regarding the lack of connectivity in 80-90 per cent of the GPs, as well as massive under-utilisation/non-utilisation of the BharatNet infrastructure.
“Though a clear utilisation target has already been set, the actual utilisation on the ground is understood to be less than 10 per cent of the target. This points to an utter lack of professionalism on the part of BBNL and BSNL with poor planning, lack of monitoring and co-ordination between the two organisations,” Sundararajan said in the letter, a copy of which is in the possession of BusinessLine.
Till December last year, the government had completed 1 lakh GPs under this project in the first phase, and in January, the government had announced that the second phase would be completed by December, well ahead of the March 2019 deadline. However, as of October, only 1.15 lakh GPs are service-ready. According to sources, the dispute between the BBNL and BSNL on ‘who will order whom’ is one of the main reasons for the delay in executing the project, which is seen as the backbone of ‘Digital India’.
“Given that this project is being monitored at the highest level in the government [PM], the failure to comply with or disregard of the instructions shall invite exemplary disciplinary action. The failure of both BBNL and BSNL to resolve the issues impeding utilisation of BharatNet and to put in place an effective O&M (operation and maintenance) arrangement is viewed with extreme displeasure,” she wrote.
The Telecom Secretary further said that all non-operational GPs should be made operational within 48 hours and a dedicated team should be constituted in the Department of Telecom (DoT) to ‘audit the status on field’.
“Disciplinary action shall be initiated against all the responsible officers for GPs where fault rectification is delayed beyond 48 hours,” Sundararajan added. – The Hindu BusinessLine