As many as 4,072 mobile towers will be set up by the government in 10 Naxal-affected states to improve telecom network in such places. A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the Home Ministry’s proposal here today, an official said. In the first phase, which was completed about two years ago, 2,329 mobile towers were installed at a cost of Rs 3,167 crore in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The additional towers will strengthen the telecom network resulting in increased mobile penetration in the Left Wing Extremism-affected and other areas facing security challenges, the official said. The operational expenses for running the towers will be part of the project cost. Of the 4,072 mobile towers, 1,054 will be installed in Jharkhand, 1,028 in Chhattisgarh, 483 in Odisha, 429 in Andhra Pradesh, 412 in Bihar, 207 in West Bengal, 179 in Uttar Pradesh, 136 in Maharashtra, 118 in Telangana and 26 in Madhya Pradesh.
The expenses are expected to be borne by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) of the Department of Telecommunications. The objective of the USOF is to provide widespread and non-discriminatory access to quality Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services at affordable prices to people in the rural and remote areas. Besides, the fund is aimed at providing effective and powerful linkage to the hinterland thereby mainstreaming the population of rural and remote parts of the country. As of now, out of the 90 districts affected by the Maoists problem, 30 were termed as worst-hit.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba had said that 44 districts in the country are no longer under the influence of Maoists or have negligible presence and most of the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is now confined only to 30 worst-hit districts. He had said the geographical spread of the LWE violence has shrunk significantly in the last four years due to a multi-pronged strategy involving security and development-related measures.
Gauba had said significant features of the anti-Naxal policy were zero-tolerance towards violence coupled with a big push to developmental activities so that benefits of new roads, bridges, telephone towers reach the poor and the vulnerable in the affected areas.