‘Red zone’ to get 2,198 cell towers

After years of neglect and delays, Naxal-hit areas cut off from all forms of habitation are set to get full mobile connectivity. The government has mooted a plan to provide full mobile connectivity to these worst Naxal-hit areas across the country. The Union home ministry has proposed to the information and broadcasting ministry to use the Universal Service Obligation (USO) funds to erect mobile towers in 2,198 locations in nine Naxal-hit states. Once the Cabinet clears the proposal, BSNL will erect these towers.
In the backdrop of the government’s efforts to improve mobile connectivity, the CPI (Maoist) top brass, in a recent directive to its cadres, has asked them to return to the “courier” service to deliver messages amongst themselves. The Naxals have been strictly asked not to rely on mobile phones, which they fear are being used by the government to track down their locations and keep an eye on their movements. The Maoists fear that once mobile connectivity reaches these areas, it will become more and more difficult to control their cadres and stop them from using mobile phones, which may ultimately prove disastrous to their movement, a top security official said.
Presently, only 301 towers have been erected but once the USO funds are used, government officials are hopeful that mobile connectivity in dense Naxal regions will no longer remain a distant dream. “It will take some time before we achieve full mobile connectivity in the LWE states, but we have informed state governments of the proposal and the process of identifying these 2198 locations has been completed,” a home ministry official said.
The strategy of police action and development in Naxal areas calls for building infrastructure in remote Naxal areas with the help of security forces. However, government officials posted in these remote corners and even security personnel in police stations face tough challenges for want of better means of communication. “The well-networked Maoists know the handicap and the mobile towers are their first target,” a security official said.
The home ministry has already sensitised security forces on threats to mobile towers from Naxal outfits in states like Chattisgarh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

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