State-run telecom company BSNL has submitted a final estimate of Rs 3,241 crore to roll out mobile services across 9 Naxal-hit states. The project was supposed to be completed this month but progress was stuck due to difference between actual bids and project cost approved by then UPA government.
“We have submitted a final estimate of about Rs 3,241 crore for installing mobile towers in Left Wing Extremist affected areas to the Department of Telecom (DoT) with comparative chart. It will take us 12 months to roll out the project from the date the estimates are approved”, BSNL Director for Consumer Mobility Anupam Shrivastava told PTI.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has been pushing for installation of mobile towers in Naxal-hit areas since 2010.The absence of mobile services has made it tough for security forces to operate and get timely help in critical situations, leading to loss of lives in some incidents. Soon after a Maoist attack at Bastar in Chhattisgarh in which 27 people, including senior Congress leaders, were killed, the Cabinet in June 2013 approved setting up mobile towers at a cost of around Rs 3,046 crore in nine states affected by the naxal violence to improve communication.
In a brazen daytime attack, Naxals on March 11 last year ambushed a security team killing 15 personnel including 11 of the CRPF and also a civilian in a chilling reminder of the 2010 massacre of 76 security-men in the same area in the worst-hit Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. The project was to be completed by June but its progress was stuck due to difference of actual bids and project cost approved by then UPA government. Inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission had asked DoT to re-tender the project with expectation of more number of participants compared to the three companies that submitted bids earlier.
However, only two players, Vihaan Networks (VNL) and HFCL, submitted bids. VNL emerged as lowest bidder and would be awarded 70 percent of the total work. HFCL will be given 30 percent of work if it agrees to supply equipment at price quoted by VNL. The final estimate of project includes about Rs 2,600 crore of equipment supplies from these vendors and rest for equipment, services and project management cost that BSNL will have to incur. The government has identified areas in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.