Fight within DoT delays crucial project in Red corridor

Last Updated: Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 16:19

New Delhi: An internal fight and wrong mathematical calculations by a wing of Department of Telecom (DoT) has led to a delay in a crucial telecom project in Naxal-hit areas, raising concerns among security agencies who have taken up the matter at the highest level of government.
Although USOF has maintained that the cost of installing telecom towers in left-wing extremism affected areas in the nine states was worked out by a committee, sources in the telecom ministry said the department was delaying the project despite having funds.

A senior Home Ministry official said that the delay was causing a lot of operational hazards and going against the government policy of ensuring full-fledged development in the remote areas of naxal-hit states.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced at the Telecom summit in last December that the Centre has approved a scheme for installing mobile towers at about 2,200 locations in areas affected by Naxal violence.

BSNL contended that VAT, excise and other state taxes had not been calculated by USOF before submitting the project to the Union Cabinet.

USOF is likely to recommend to the Telecom Commission that a re-tendering process be initiated which, however, may lead to litigation from the selected companies, thus resulting in a lengthy delay, officials felt.

Home Ministry also cited the instance of the killing of Congress leader Mahendra Karma in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh last year and said that, had a telecom network been available, the damage in that attack could have been minimised.

They also cited several other examples where damage to life and property of people and security personnel could have been prevented or at least lessened had the areas been connected on the telecom map of the country.

The project, which was initiated by the then Home Minister P Chidambaram after the brutal massacre of 76 CRPF personnel in Dantewada, finally got through the Cabinet in June last year.

The lack of telecom infrastructure in the Left Wing Extremism affected areas of Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh severely compromises the position of the security forces vis-a-vis Maoist ultras.

As far as communication infrastructure, particularly mobile networks are concerned, security forces face significant challenges in their operations in these areas, the officials said.

Now, with the general elections round the corner, security agencies are more worried as this could have an impact on the security requirements of the personnel in manning the worst- affected areas in these states.

BSNL had opened a tendering process after the Cabinet note and only two companies were selected as no other players, especially the foreign ones, were willing to provide equipment at such a low cost.

The private companies, while submitting their tenders, had included VAT, service tax and other charges which the states would have levied on the equipment, thereby raising the total cost of the project.

The order was placed with Indian companies which have pioneered solar-powered GSM networks in remote areas lacking basic infrastructure and electricity.
Although USOF has maintained that the cost of installing telecom towers in left-wing extremism affected areas in the nine states was worked out by a committee, sources in the telecom ministry said the department was delaying the project despite having funds.

A senior Home Ministry official said that the delay was causing a lot of operational hazards and going against the government policy of ensuring full-fledged development in the remote areas of naxal-hit states.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced at the Telecom summit in last December that the Centre has approved a scheme for installing mobile towers at about 2,200 locations in areas affected by Naxal violence.

BSNL contended that VAT, excise and other state taxes had not been calculated by USOF before submitting the project to the Union Cabinet.

USOF is likely to recommend to the Telecom Commission that a re-tendering process be initiated which, however, may lead to litigation from the selected companies, thus resulting in a lengthy delay, officials felt.

Home Ministry also cited the instance of the killing of Congress leader Mahendra Karma in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh last year and said that, had a telecom network been available, the damage in that attack could have been minimised.

They also cited several other examples where damage to life and property of people and security personnel could have been prevented or at least lessened had the areas been connected on the telecom map of the country.

The project, which was initiated by the then Home Minister P Chidambaram after the brutal massacre of 76 CRPF personnel in Dantewada, finally got through the Cabinet in June last year.

The lack of telecom infrastructure in the Left Wing Extremism affected areas of Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh severely compromises the position of the security forces vis-a-vis Maoist ultras.

As far as communication infrastructure, particularly mobile networks are concerned, security forces face significant challenges in their operations in these areas, the officials said.

Now, with the general elections round the corner, security agencies are more worried as this could have an impact on the security requirements of the personnel in manning the worst- affected areas in these states.

BSNL had opened a tendering process after the Cabinet note and only two companies were selected as no other players, especially the foreign ones, were willing to provide equipment at such a low cost.

The private companies, while submitting their tenders, had included VAT, service tax and other charges which the states would have levied on the equipment, thereby raising the total cost of the project.

The order was placed with Indian companies which have pioneered solar-powered GSM networks in remote areas lacking basic infrastructure and electricity.

PTI

First Published: Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 16:19

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