New Delhi: State-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has issued notices inviting tenders for the building of towers in regions affected by left-wing extremism, part of a Rs3,000 crore project that was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in June.
The notices call for supply, installation, operation and maintenance of 1,315 towers in areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal.
On 4 June, CCEA approved the disbursement of Rs3,046 crore to BSNL for building 2,199 towers in areas where left-wing extremists are active in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, covering around 56,000 villages.
The money will be disbursed from the universal service obligation fund that was set up using a percentage of the revenue from telcos that they pay as licence fee to the government. The main objective of the fund is to subsidize setting up of communications infrastructure in rural India considered economically unviable.
The tender document will be available from 28 August and the last date for operators to submit sealed technical and commercial bids is 27 September.
Selected entities will have to set up and maintain the network they build for five years, which is extendable by another two years.
BSNL was nominated for the job because private telcos are unwilling to take the risk of working in areas affected by Maoist extremism without government support.
Of the Rs3,000 crore earmarked for the project, half is expected to be used for setting up the network and the rest for maintenance as operational expenditure. The government will take a call later on whether the funding should be continued after the five-year period ends.
R. K. Upadhyay, BSNL’s chairman and managing director, did not respond to calls.