In a move to spread a web of mobile towers across the Maoist heartland, the telecom commission has finally cleared Rs 3,000-crore plan to set up 2,200 towers in 84 naxal-affected districts.
Improved connectivity in remote and inaccessible areas would not only touch the lives of lakhs of tribals and villagers but also give security forces operating in the jungles a secure line of communication. They currently have to do with wireless systems which can be intercepted by Maoists as well.
“It would give an edge to the security forces since they would have the capacity to put mobile phones operating in a particular area under surveillance,” a government official told HT. Security forces, however, would have the capacity of tracking the mobile phones.
The 2,200 towers would be erected within or around security camps to deter naxals from destroying them. Maoists have destroyed nearly 200 mobile towers in the past four years.
The ambitious plan was conceived three years ago by the home ministry. But first it ran into trouble with the finance ministry – which among other things wanted to know how mobile radiation would affect the wildlife – and later the telecom ministry.
The public sector Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) initially sought over R5,500 crore to do the job under the universal service obligation fund, something that set alarm bells ringing both at the ministries of finance and home.
Home Secretary RK Singh conveyed the telecom ministry’s decision to police chiefs of naxal-affected states on Monday, asking them to provide security cover to agencies tasked to build roads and bridges. In the first instance, Singh identified 8 bridges across the naxal belt that needed to be quickly built.