New Delhi: The telecom ministry is planning
to develop postal and telecom services in the county`s 60
naxal-affected areas where lack of a developed communication
system is glaring.
With an aim to achieve this goal, Telecom Minister Kapil
Sibal met Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh yesterday.
Sibal also gave an in-principle approval to hire employees for
the postal department on contractual basis for the naxal-
"They both met and discussed how to improve the
communications system in the naxal-affected areas under the
central government`s National e-Governance Plan (NeGP)," a
senior official from the Department of Telecom said.
"The Minister (Kapil Sibal) has at the first hand
reviewed the postal department services and the next is he
will review the telecom services in the naxal-affected areas.
He is already in talks with PSU BSNL in order to how to set up
infrastructure in these areas," the official added.
According to sources, the telecom ministry will fund the
project from the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund,
which has a corpus of around Rs 16,000 crore as of now.
The naxal-affected 60 districts, where the communication
system is poor, are in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra
Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and
Left-wing extremists, also known as Naxalites or Maoists,
have destroyed more than 100 mobile towers in three years,
according to sources.
"Communication is the biggest problem in fighting
Left-wing extremists. In many areas, there is not even a
single mobile tower," the telecom official said.
It will, however, take at least a year and a half for
services to be launched in these areas. Installing one mobile
phone tower costs around Rs 29 lakh, according to DoT. This
does not include the cost of maintenance, security and power,
a source added.
Around 50-60 battalions, each comprising nearly 1,000
personnel, from the Central Reserve Police Force, Border
Security Force and Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force are
deployed in Naxalite-affected areas.