Spinning another surprise, the Standing Committee on Information Technology has blamed the Department of Telecom for not preparing a cabinet note for the adoption of PPP mode to expedite implementation of rural broadband project BharatNet even after over a year of Digital Communication Commission’s approval.
Under the BharatNet project, all 2.5 lakh village panchayats across the country will be connected with high-speed broadband services. The project was set to be completed by March 2019, but so far only 1.18 lakh gram panchayats (GPs) have been covered under the project.
The Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the apex decision making body at the Department of Telecom (DoT), last year gave in-principle approval to move to public-private partnership (PPP) model for expediting roll out of Bharatnet.
Following the DCC approval, the DoT was required to take cabinet approval. The DoT is yet to take final approval of the draft cabinet note which is under ‘preparation’. “The committee are, however, disheartened to note that the cabinet draft note is still under preparation,” the panel said in its report tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday.
The parliamentary panel on IT-led by Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor has also questioned the ouster of state-run BSNL from rolling out the second phase of mobile network in Naxal affected areas.
The committee was informed that the LWE (Left Wing Extremist) Phase-I has been successfully implemented by BSNL by setting up 2,345 towers. However, LWE Phase-II for setting up of towers at 2,217 locations at an estimated cost of Rs 3,214.65 crore has not been allocated to BSNL mainly because of the precarious financial position of the state-run telecom firm.
The committee wanted that the DoT makes sincere efforts to ensure that the work of LWE Phase-II is allocated to BSNL. “From the reply of the department it appears either they have failed to understand the intent of the recommendation or they are not very keen that the project be awarded to and executed by BSNL,” the report said.
The DoT informed the panel about a case being filed by Telecom Watchdog against BSNL but was not apprised about the reason for the lawsuit.