The Indian Government on Monday announced that it had allocated an additional Rs 19.041-crore in order to divert efforts towards the expansion as well as upgradation of BharatNet, which is a nationwide initiative aimed at connecting over 6 lakh villages with the optic fibre-based network so as to ensure the delivery of Internet services.
Out of the targeted 2.5 lakh gram panchayats or village blocks, spanning over 6 lakh villages, approximately 1,56,223 blocks have been covered as of May 31, according to the latest data released by the government. The additional outlay will now be used to connect the balance.
The Rs. 19,041 crores for broadband to connect each village via BharatNet's public-private partnership model has been highlighted as a part of the Digital India program, as per a presentation that was presented by India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
With this additional sum, the total amount for the BharatNet project has reached Rs. 61,109 crores which include the previously approved amount of Rs 42,068 crores back in 2017.
The finance ministry’s additional funding comes after Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi's announcement on August 15, 2020, which outlines the need to connect every inhabited village in 1000 days.
What Do We Know About BharatNet's Plans
BharatNet, which was originally set up during the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II government in October of 2011, has been subject to multiple challenges leading to the missing of deadlines quite regularly.
The deadline that was set to connect all the 2.5 lakh village blocks in the country so as to provide 100 Mbps data connectivity has been extended several times, with the current deadline of August 2021 expected to be extended like before.
Do note that earlier this year, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT) had pulled up the DoT or Department of Telecommunications in relation to the delay caused in preparation of a cabinet note for the rollout of a PPP or public-private partnership for the rural broadband initiative that had been set.
The Finance Minister had stated that 1,56,223 gram panchayats were now service-ready. The rest have to be extended to the same facility so an additional Rs 19,041 crore has been provided so as to meet the 1,000 days target. This is a totally new amount that is being announced, taking the BharatNet project total cost to Rs 61,109 crore. We (the Govt) should be able to complete the work with this amount.