Telecom towers at police stations to link troubled areas: Sachin Pilot

"We must ensure connectivity because people must be a part of the telecom revolution we have today. This revolution can't be limited to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai. It has to go to villages also -- those are the people who are the most vulnerable," the minister said.

"We are looking at putting telecom towers at police stations there," Pilot told IANS in an exclusive interview here, adding that he proposed to use a part of the funds worth Rs.13,789 crore available with the government for universal telecom services.

According to Pilot, if private players were reluctant to enter such areas as there was little money to make, it was left to the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to get the much-needed encouragement to ensure telephone connectivity.

"I have said BSNL must be encouraged to enter those districts which are affected by the Naxal violence, as also other affected areas. We have focussed on BSNL to put up more towers there, since they (Naxalites) blow up the towers and then they remain cut off."

The 33-year-old Wharton-educated minister said although India's telecom density had reached nearly 70 percent there was still a wide gap between urban and rural areas -- with telecom densities of 154 (repeat 154) percent and 33 percent, respectively.

"We have 800 million telecom subscribers. But they have been the easier ones to tap. As regards the rest of the 400 million people, they are the people who are geographically quite distant, or are the fringes of society -- economically and socially," he said.

"Government and industry must be able to give them reasonable access to telecom services and the potential for growth," said the minister, a two-time member of the Lok Sabha, representing Ajmer in Rajasthan now.

He said the existing telecom policy -- which was being re-cast -- already had provisions for penalties, as also what is called the Universal Service Obligation Fund -- to take connectivity to the hinterland.

"But the idea is not to think of punitive action. The idea is to provide incentives to  the operators so that the rollout happens on a larger scale and reaches even the remotest parts of the country," he said.

"So we are thinking of what other parameters to include and exclude so that people get the benefits. How do we ensure that the rollout physically and actually happens? That's the thinking behind changing of the existing roll-out obligation criteria."

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