Even as many states continue to struggle to complete the work on BharatNet phase two, the rural broadband internet connectivity scheme, Punjab became the first state to connect all of its gram panchayats (GPs) under the scheme, according to the latest data accessed by The Indian Express.
Under BharatNet phase two, Punjab had connected and made all of its 4,754 GPs service ready as of September 30, while it had laid 11,807 km of optical fibre to connect these areas, the data showed. A service ready GP is defined as one that has been connected by optical fibre to the main internet grid of the state and has active users in the villages adjoining the gram panchayats.
Other than Bihar, Punjab is the only state where state-run Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) is responsible for working on implementation of BharatNet. Most states have either opted to lead the projects themselves or complete the work in a public-private partnership (PPP) mode.
Apart from connecting Punjab’s GPs via optical fibre, BBNL also managed to keep at least 4,630, or 97 per cent, of them connected under phase two, up and running through regular operations and maintenance, the data showed.
“Some of the gram panchayats where the network does not work as effectively is mostly due to power supply issue or when old lossy cable has to be replaced. The benefit is that with lockdown and work from home norms, we are alerted of these discrepancies by users when the internet does not work for them,” a state-level BBNL official, said.
Under BharatNet phase two, BBNL was tasked with connecting GPs in 17 districts such as Bathinda, Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, and ten others.
The benefit that Punjab had, BBNL officials said, was active support from the state government.
“So if you see other state-led models or models where BharatNet is being implemented in PPP mode, the progress is slow due to multiple factors. One is bureaucracy. Too many agencies have been involved from the planning stage itself. Then, they do not have the experience of handling such projects,” another BBNL official said, requesting not to be named.
As reported earlier by The Indian Express, at least eight states including Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha and Tamil Nadu are lagging behind on their schedules for completion of work on BharatNet phase two. These eight states had in 2018 opted to complete the work on BharatNet themselves instead of outsourcing it to BBNL, the central agency overseeing the implementation of the project elsewhere.
“This is not a project that has to be done over a fixed area of land like construction of a building complex. It requires constant co-ordination from several agencies such as the road, transport and highways department, the state-level roadway departments and then the municipalities. State-led models will have to improve on these factors to catch up with the schedule,” an official of the Department of Telecommunications said.
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