As security forces fight to end the violence in Naxal, the Home Office wants the mobile phone towers installed in the affected region to remain operational regardless of the financial implications to give them the advantage of a fluid communication and awaiting a nod from the telecommunications department, officials said on Sunday.
At a recent meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Ajay Bhalla, the telecommunications department was made clear that these mobile towers should remain active. Previously, a series of meetings were held on the issue.
A letter was sent to Anshuli Arya, the administrator of the Universal Service Obligation Fund, conveying the Interior Ministry’s decision to expand the operation of all these sites. The USOF is the pool of funds generated by charging all telecommunications companies on their Adjusted Gross Income (AGR).
This fund, which is managed by the Department of Telecommunications, is used to provide funds for telecommunications connectivity in rural areas and in regions that are not commercially advantageous for telecommunications operators.
Over 2,200 telecommunications towers have been installed in Chhattishgarh and nine other naxalism-affected states that form the “Red Corridor” to provide communication between security forces and state police services.
The towers, which have been funded by the USOF for five years, could be extended for another two years as part of an ongoing BSNL tender to help security forces maintain easy access to the communication facility.
However, the telecoms department’s silence for its extension left everyone in despair, including the state-run BSNL, which has been following up with the USOF for nearly 20 months.
The BSNL CMD sent a letter asking for a clear decision as to whether they should stop operations as BSNL is losing money every month to run these commercially unviable sites.
BSNL wrote a letter to the secretary of telecommunications asking for clear instructions on whether or not to maintain the mobile towers and said BSNL had installed 356 telecommunications sites in the areas affected by Naxalism from its own resources to which OPEX has not been the subject of a call for tenders. (Operational Expenses) was provided by USOF from September 2014 to 2019.
In addition, BSNL installed and commissioned sites in 1987 as part of the LWE (Left Wing Extremism) project for which the USOF provides an OPEX grant.
“The subsidy period for the LWE sites expires gradually from July 2020 to March 2022. It specifies that the BSNL has not obtained any extension to date and can close these sites if an extension has not come from the telecoms department. an official said, adding that to shut down the service, he must notify subscribers 30 days in advance, according to the rules.
BSNL clarified that either an extension is granted to these projects, or the final closure dates of the telecommunications sites are provided.
This comes at a time when security forces are establishing new camps in areas dominated by Naxal to ensure the safety of people in those areas.