Though the finance minister has raised the budgetary allocation for the Bharat Net project by 66% to Rs 10,000 crore for 2017-18, nothing was mentioned with regard to the timelines by when the project will be completed. By available indications, it is clear that it will miss its Phase-I deadline of March 2017. Earlier also, deadlines have been missed.
By January-end, the project has covered 76,089 gram panchayats (GPs), which is 76% of the project target for Phase-I.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley, while presenting the Budget, said that optical fibre cable (OFC) has been laid over 1.55 lakh km and by 2017-18-end, it will connect over 1.5 lakh GPs with WiFi hot spots and access to digital services at low tariffs.
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Connecting 1.5 lakh GPs by March 2018 looks like an ambitious target as the pace of laying the OFC has more than halved. The rate of laying fibre, which was 1,858 km per week by Mid-January, has come down to 776 km per week by the month-end.
The Budget also talked about launching a DigiGaon initiative to provide tele-medicine, education and skills through digital technology, which is also one of the major objectives of the Bharat Net project.
Welcoming the government’s increased allocation for Bharat Net, CFO of IT major TCS, Rajesh Gopinathan, said: “The proposed DigiGaon initiative to provide telemedicine, education and skills through digital technology will increase empowerment.”
The Budget also announced the creation of a Computer Emergency Response Team for Financial Sector (CERT-Fin), which will work in close coordination with all financial sector regulators and other stakeholders, for safeguarding the integrity and stability of the market.
Market analysts have welcomed the move, saying it was a long-felt demand, as with the growth of online transactions and the government’s thrust of moving towards a digital economy, the sector had become more vulnerable to cyber criminals.
Rishi Ranjan Kala