Wrong estimates affect mobile towers projects in naxal-hit areas

NEW DELHI: Progress in the Rs 3,046-crore mobile phone towers project in naxal affected areas across nine states is stuck due to wrong estimates by the Department of Telecom, official sources say.
BSNL, which has to implement this project, has brought this “arithmetical error” to the DoT’s notice. There is a difference of about Rs 789 crore between actual requirement and the project budget approved by Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs.
“There is an arithmetical mistake in annual maintenance contract estimates, omission of certain items that are required for roll out of projects, revision of VSAT bandwidth charges and other. The DoT is studying it,” official sources told PTI.
Soon after a Maoist attack at Bastar in Chattisgarh in which 27 people, including senior Congress leaders, were killed, the Cabinet in June 2013 approved setting up mobile towers at a cost of around Rs 3,046 crore in nine states affected by naxal violence to improve communication.
As per the correction highlighted by BSNL, the government will have to provide for an additional Rs 789 crore.
Inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission has to take a call on it and due to higher revised estimates and inclusion of certain items, the project may have to be again placed before CCEA, sources said.
State-owned BSNL was asked to set up towers at 2,199 locations in the nine states in next 12 months i.E. By June, 2014.
The nine states are Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.
The Cabinet approved funding of Universal Sevice Obligation Fund (USOF) for capital and operational expenditure revenue for 5 years at a maximum outgo of about Rs 3,046.12 crore.
The towers which have been a long-pending demand of the Home Ministry, will strengthen the telecom network resulting in increased penetration in left wing extremist LWE affected areas and other areas facing security challenges.
BSNL has till date installed towers at 363 locations.
—PTI