Ambitious plan to hasten mobile networks in Maoist belt
Maoists may be hastening a technological revolution in India’s tribal heartland. Backward districts of Jharkhand, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh are set to get high-quality mobile telephone services as the home ministry has asked Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to set up 1,721 towers and base stations in these areas.india Updated: May 25, 2011 21:13 IST
Maoists may be hastening a technological revolution in India’s tribal heartland. Backward districts of Jharkhand, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh are set to get high-quality mobile telephone services as the home ministry has asked Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to set up 1,721 towers and base stations in these areas.
Operators fight shy of investing in remote areas as capital costs are high while revenue per user is low. The Centre is moving in to plug the gap, and initially plans to install 300 towers by June.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is suggesting subsidy payments from the government to help the services. It said in a note that poor communication systems in the interior areas were “a serious handicap” for security forces.
“It was decided long back that service providers would install the towers in the police stations/ camps of security forces. So far, this has not gained much ground,” the note observed.
The areas, described as LWE (left wing extremist) areas, may not be commercially viable, the note said, adding, “if these towers are mandated due to security requirements then a subsidy must be provided to BSNL for erection of these towers.”
Even though the issue of subsidy has not yet resolved and the towers are not yet being installed, BSNL officials in these areas have started their groundwork.
“These are matters of internal security, which I cannot reveal," said DK Sinha, chief general manager, BSNL Jharkhand.
Towers set up by private operators were vulnerable to damage because Maoists demand money from them, BSNL officials said.
BSNL had submitted a report to the government on setting up a network in Naxal areas, and is awaiting approval, said CL Yadav, general manager, network and planning, BSNL, MP.
Balaram Pal, general manager for mobiles at BSNL, Bhubaneshwar, said, “Discussions are going on at the top level.”
(With inputs from Tanushree Rai in Bhopal, Priya Ranjan Sahu in Bhubaneshwar and B Vijay Murty in Ranchi)
First Published: May 25, 2011 21:12 IST