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Thursday, September 23, 2021

PPP model of BharatNet: DoT starts meets, hopes to float bid by Sept-end

Earlier this year in June, the Union Cabinet had approved a plan to rope in the private sector to complete the pending work on BharatNet, the Central government’s flagship scheme to provide internet connectivity to all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country.

Written by Aashish Aryan | New Delhi |
Updated: August 31, 2021 3:02:18 am
bharat net scheme central govt delay covidAs part of the plan, under a PPP model, the concessionaire will be selected through a competitive international bidding process and will be responsible for creation, upgradation, operation, maintenance and utilisation of BharatNet. (Express File)

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has started pre-bid meetings with various stakeholders with respect to the public-private partnership model implementation for BharatNet.

The DoT has so far conducted two meetings and hopes to conduct some more to understand the needs of the projects before releasing the final bids, senior government officials said.

“We have also been taking feedback from some of the states which took the lead on the PPP model under BharatNet phase two. There is a need to understand what will work and what are the hindrances so that optimal utilisation of funds can be done to complete the project by August 2023,” a senior DoT official said.

The DoT hopes to come out with the bid for the PPP mode implementation of BharatNet not later by September end, the official said. Earlier this year in June, the Union Cabinet had approved a plan to rope in the private sector to complete the pending work on BharatNet, the Central government’s flagship scheme to provide internet connectivity to all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country.

As part of the plan, under a PPP model, the concessionaire will be selected through a competitive international bidding process and will be responsible for creation, upgradation, operation, maintenance and utilisation of BharatNet. The revised strategy will be followed in 16 states for now.

The implementation of BharatNet under PPP model is estimated to cost Rs 29,432 crore, of which the government will spend Rs 19,041 crore as viability gap funding. The PPP model will initially be launched in Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh, with an aim to connect 3.61 lakh villages with internet. The government has created nine packages among these 16 states, and no player will be allowed to bid for over four packages. A package will be roughly equal to a telecom licensed area or a telecom circle, which can either be a state or group of states.

The Indian Express, in January 2020, reported that with the panchayat internet connectivity scheme floundering at the last mile due to the failure of the implementation agencies, the DoT had been looking to rope in the private sector to complete the pending projects under Phase 1 and 2 of BharatNet.

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