The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the long-pending proposal to install mobile towers in nine naxal- affected states by BSNL at cost Rs 3,216 crore that will be borne by the government. "The Cabinet has approved setting up of 1,836 new base transmission towers (BTS) in Left Wing Extremist affected districts. People in these areas and security forces have asked to improve the mobile connectivity in these districts," Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said after a Cabinet meeting.
He said 363 towers under the project have already been set up for which subsidy will be given from the Universal Services Obligation Fund. "The project implementation cost through the open tendering process is approximately Rs 3,568 crore against the revised cost estimate of approximately Rs 3,216 crore," Prasad said. The Ministry of Home Affairs has been pushing for installation of mobile towers in Naxal-hit areas since 2010.
The absence of mobile services has made it tough for security forces to operate and get timely help in critical situations, leading to loss of lives in some incidents. Soon after a Maoist attack at Bastar in Chhattisgarh in which 27 people, including some senior Congress leaders, were killed, the then Cabinet in June 2013 had approved setting up of mobile towers at a cost of around Rs 3,046 crore in nine states affected by the naxal violence to improve communications.
The project to install mobile towers at 2,199 locations was to be completed by June but its progress was stuck due to difference in actual bids and project cost approved by then UPA government. The government has identified areas in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.