Lucknow: Put this down to the Narendra Modi effect. Soon, visitors and tourists to the Varanasi ghats and Lucknow's famed Bhool-Bhulaiyyan (maze) will be able to surf the net thanks to wi-fi hotspots being created there and at other places in the state at nothing less than breakneck speed.
Spurred into action by the ascendancy of Modi, the Varanasi MP, as the prime minister, telecom service provider Bharatiya Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has fast-tracked work on providing wi-fi connectivity at the Varanasi ghats. This would be done "earlier than expected" as the union telecom ministry is closely supervising the operations, a senior official told a news agency, not wishing to be identified because of government rules.
In the first phase, Internet hotspots would be provided at the ghats and also at the Sangam, where the three holy Hindu rivers - the Ganga, Yamuna and the celestial Saraswati - meet. With major footfalls in these cities and tourist hotspots, an official pointed out "instructions were to make these places wi-fi by end of October".
Other than this, the fabled Bhool-Bhulaiyyan in Lucknow, represented by union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the Lok Sabha, is also on the wi-fi radar.
Work has already begun on laying optic fibre cables in these areas. A senior official said work was being done in the right earnest.
In the next phase, BSNL plans to provide broadband connectivity at all major tourist attractions and religious places in the state to enhance the internet experience.
BSNL is also working in full swing on the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) aimed at providing broadband internet in the countryside. The first phase of work is complete, with 1,477 villages - 387 in Uttar Pradesh - already connected to the internet. Spread over 19 districts and 25 blocks these villages will soon get a "major makeover" say officials, adding that these villages also have GPS installed.
In Lucknow, 15 villages are in the Bakshi Ka Talaab area, 34 in Mall block and 35 in the mango belt of Malihabad. Other villages which have been connected to the internet include Baberu in Banda, Gauhad in Hamirpur, Charkhari in Mahoba and Dariyabad in Barabanki.
While NOFN was conceived in 2011, work, officials admit, "picked up considerable pace ever since the Modi government came to power" and point out that instructions have been received from the union telecom ministry to review all cable joints and ensure broadband connectivity and GPS installation in all the nine circles of the state.
Modi is known for his stress and priority on use of Internet and e-commerce as a powerful tool to develop India into a major power in the years to come. Only recently, a private e-commerce player launched a platform in Varanasi where weavers were connected to the Internet to sell their looms, other products and the famous Banarasi saris.
"Uttar Pradesh is undergoing a sea change as far as use and assimilation of modern technology is concerned," said an official, while pointing out that the state government was also extending full support making it more easy to usher in the Internet revolution in the Hindi heartland. The Samajwadi party government's free laptop scheme under which hundreds of thousands of laptops were given to students who had cleared class 12 hinges majorly on Internet availability.