Anti-Maoist mobile network to be revived

The Telecom departmment (DoT) has constituted a committee to decide on a telecom service provider which would construct 2,100 mobile towers in nine states.

 
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed fears that Left wing extremism (LWE) was the biggest internal security challenge. A proposal for better communication connectivity in nine Maoist-affected states has been hanging fire in the Telecom department for almost two years.

Union Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde wrote a reminder recently to Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal for expediting the connectivity aspect. Previously, Shinde’s predecessor P Chidambaram had taken up the issue with Sibal since the connectivity in these states was very poor, as the Maoists had blown off towers to avoid security forces’ communication network.

Aggressive efforts are going on for erecting mobile phone towers in LWE infested areas in states like Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharastra, Odisha and Bihar. The files have been shuttling from one ministry to another owing to a lack of decision to select a service provider and earmark funds to raising the towers to ensure that people as well as the security forces are connected. It was decided that towers would be raised in and around police stations and near security forces’ stations so that ultras would not blow them off.

Government sources said twice in the past, the DoT had agreed to nominate Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to carry out the work but they revisited their decisions. The last time, the DoT had opted for providing BSNL a subsidy from Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) – a government kitty used for providing connectivity to non-commercial areas.

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