BENGALURU: The BharatNet project, which was envisaged to provide broadband connectivity to all villages has been hit by a number of factors. Due to cheap broadband rates offered by private firms thanks to tariff wars, and complaints that the scheme was not being implemented properly, many grama panchayats are preferring to disconnect from BharatNet than pay the high price for the connection provided by the government.
However, officials say that the problems are being fixed as more and more villages are being included in the scheme envisioned in 2011.One of the complaints pertaining to the scheme was of Ragihalli village, selected as part of Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. “After installing the broadband service provided by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, we used it for a few months before giving up on it. A dongle from a private firm is used for Internet connection as its charges are a lot less,” said Gopi K N, who is employed at the grama panchayat.
He said that the panchayat had to pay Rs 3,000 every month for the connection – an amount that could not be raised using the resources of the gram panchayat. “We still have to pay Rs 8,000 as pending bills (for Internet connection),” he said. To a question, he replied, “Though the local administration can earn `2.5 lakh as various taxes, taxes were rarely paid and Rs 28 lakh pending taxes were yet to be collected from the village.”
Recently personnel from BSNL visited panchayat offices for maintenance and repairs of the connection provided, he added.
C P Thippeswamy, an activist from Chitradurga, alleged that none of the villages in his district or surrounding districts had a working broadband connection. “I have filed several RTIs to understand why the scheme was not implemented despite being widely publicised. I am yet to receive a response in the matter,” he said.
Though the scheme was launched seven years ago and reintroduced in 2014, villagers are yet to benefit from it, he said.N Janardhan, General Manager and Karnataka State Head for Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL) said that the firm was involved in providing network connectivity, after which BSNL and the panchayat development officer had to take care of the connection. “Till date, we have provided connection to 5,000 of 6,000 villages in the state,” he said.
Sources in BBNL said tariff wars had affected their effort to provide high-speed Internet connectivity. “There have been disconnections due to non-payment. All gram panchayats can choose the kind of services they want, and pay accordingly, which has not gone down well with panchayats with inadequate resources,” the source said.