New Delhi: In a big push for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s idea of a digital India, the Union cabinet on Wednesday approved a modified implementation strategy for the BharatNet project which aims to provide broadband connectivity to all village bodies or gram panchayats by March 2019, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The government now plans to spend Rs42,068 crore on the project, more than triple its earlier budget of Rs13,000 crore for village connectivity under the Output-Outcome Framework for Schemes 2017.
The project will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund. Divided in phases, as much as Rs11,148 crore will be spent to connect 100,000 gram panchayats in the first phase, while Rs18,792 crore will be invested to connect the remaining 150,000 gram panchayats in the second phase.
The rest of the money will be spent on last mile connectivity architecture, operation and maintenance and replacement of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s poor quality fibre that is being used in the project between block to gram panchayat, the person cited above said requesting anonymity.
With Digital India, Modi has envisaged a large number of e-governance services across sectors such as healthcare, education and banking, promising to introduce transparency, reduce corruption and achieve inclusive growth.
Earlier, the government had set a target to provide high-speed broadband connectivity across 100,000 gram panchayats by March 2017 and in the rest of the 150,000 panchayats by 2018, PTI reported, February 2017.
Under the Output-Outcome Framework for Schemes 2017 issued in February, the government had allocated Rs13,000 crore to the department of telecom (DoT) to roll out broadband networks across gram panchayats (GPs) and build an alternate communications network for defence.
As on 29 January, optical fibre was laid to connect 76,089 gram panchayats, out of which 16,355 have been provided broadband connectivity.
With the rollout of BharatNet, the government expects to bridge the digital divide in rural and remote areas of the country. The plan will facilitate electronic delivery of services to citizens of various e-governance, e-commerce, e-education, and e-health services etc.
Under the modified plan, the implementation of BharatNet will be taken up by states, their various agencies, private sector companies as well as central public sector units. Their expertise will be used in providing connectivity by optical mix of media, rather than only by underground optical fibre communication, which was the initial strategy.
In order to make the proposition lucrative for these agencies, they will also be responsible for management, operation maintenance, preferably for the life time of the project.
In order to ensure efficient service, fresh fibre cable will be laid from blocks to gram panchayats.
The government will share BharatNet infrastructure with all kinds of service providers on a non-discriminatory basis.