Govt to set up 2,200 mobile towers in nine Maoist-hit states

Concerned over poor telephone connectivity in remote Maoist-affected areas, the government is planning to install 2,200 mobile towers in nine Maoist-hit states by the end of this year.

Following a request by the Home Ministry, the Department of Telecommunication has roped in the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited to carry out the ambitious project to strengthen the mobile telephone network by setting up the towers in remote inaccessible areas where Maoists have a strong presence.

The towers will be set up in consultations with the state governments near establishments of security forces, police stations or other secured locations as the Maoists have often been targeting such towers in the past.

The proposal will be submitted before the Union Cabinet soon and once it gets approval, work will start immediately, official sources said.

The cost of construction of each tower would be in the range of Rs 10 to 12 lakh and funds will be provided from the Universal Service Obligation Fund, a corpus being created by the government through raising the Universal Access Levy (UAL).

The purpose of levying the tax is to provide telecom services in rural and remote areas as these areas generate lower revenue due to lower population density, low income and lack of commercial activity.

The states that will benefit from the project include Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra, they said.

The idea was mooted after receiving complaints of poor mobile connectivity from security forces and people engaged in development projects in these states.

More than 200 mobile towers were blown up in the last four years in the nine states by Maoists who claim that police were being tipped off about their movements and locations by informers through mobile phones.

Maoist violence has been reported in areas falling under 270 police stations in 64 districts across India.

The level of violence in Left Wing Extremism affected states is still unacceptably high with 447 civilians and 142 security personnel killed in 2011.The Central government has shouldered its share of responsibility in dealing with the Maoists and has deployed 90 battalions (around 90,000 personnel) of paramilitary forces.

The budget allocation under Security Related Expenditure scheme has been increased to Rs 337 crore in 2011-12 as against only Rs 80 crore in 2008-09.

The government is also implementing an ambitious Integrated Action Plan in 78 selected tribal and backward Maoist-affected districts since 2010.

Various development schemes like construction of roads, bridges, school buildings, providing drinking water facilities to rural population, besides sanitation and electric works, are being being carried out through it.The government sanctioned Rs 25 crore in 2010-11 and Rs 30 crore in 2011-12 to each of these districts through which 63,416 projects were set up and 26,593 projects completed, incurring an expenditure of Rs 1,391 crore till 2011.

The funds for the project are placed at the disposal of a committee headed by the district collector to oversee its implementation.

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