Govt: 2.5 lakh panchayats to get broadband connectivity by 2013 [Wishful Thinking?]

In order to improve public delivery mechanism including e-learning and accessing real time feedback, the present UPA government is all set to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats with broadband within 16 months. The project comprises individual schemes such as the Wire Line Broadband Scheme, the Rural Public Service Terminal Pilot for Financial Inclusion and the Optical Fibre Cable Network connecting block headquarters known as gram panchayats.

“In a review meeting of the project, the Planning Commission was assured by the Knowledge Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda that country’s all 250,000 panchayats will have broadband connectivity in next 16 month”, a source privy to the development said.[ via]

However, this new time frame for the completion of the ambitious INR 20,000 Crore project seems to be distant dream as government had failed to meet previous deadlines. Many feel such announcement is in sync with the timing of General Lok Sabha election to be held in 2014 rather than connecting Panchayats with broadband connectivity. The project was initially scheduled to finish by December 2012; however government failed miserably to achieve that.

According to telecom experts’ government lethargic approach, confusion over the structure and technology selection including under utilisation/misuse of the funds are the primary reasons for the so far delay. For example, not an inch of new optic fibre cable has been laid so far, according to a report published in DNA on July 16; so, even the December 2014 deadline is unrealistic, they alleged. Over the last two years, progress has been made only in setting up new committees to aid in rolling out the project. Earlier this year, the government set up Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBTL), a special purpose vehicle to implement the project.

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