SUKMA: A day before the deadly Maoist ambush on the 74th battalion of CRPF that killed 25 personnel on Monday, the network connectivity of the only mobile service provider- Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL)- was down for over 24 hours across strife-torn Sukma district. According to Sukma police, there was a complete breakdown since Sunday afternoon and it was restored only a couple of hours after the attack.
On Monday, armed Maoists targeted the road opening party (ROP) of the CRPF and killed 25 personnel and injured eight others near Burkapal, in the Red bastion of Sukma.
“Intelligence failure has been cited as one of the reasons behind the attack. If over 300 armed Maoists had assembled at some nearby location, there is no reason why we won’t be able to know. But with no network connectivity since Sunday afternoon for 24 hours neither we nor our informers in the villages could get in touch with each other. We are dependent on the BSNL service,” said Vivek Shukla, SDOP Dornapal, suggesting the local police missed gathering timely inputs.
Senior police officials in Sukma said that they have no choice to shift to other telecom operators as BSNL is the only service provider in Sukma, and many subscribers allege it has poor connectivity in the region.
In June, 2016, Union communication and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, dedicated 146 newly set-up mobile towers in the left-wing extremist hub of Chhattisgarh. On April 2, 2017 chief minister Raman Singh announced the ‘Bastar Net’ project to strengthen mobile and internet connectivity across Bastar’s seven districts by December 2017.
But the output could not be delivered when it was needed the most in Sukma. “Persistent network problems make it feel like a kala-pani (cellular jail of the colonial era) for Sukma’s residents. Once BSNL network is down we don’t know when it will be restored,” said Rathi, a senior journalist.
The security personnel posted on the border areas said that many a times they get network from the neighbouring State. “Why does the government not force Jio, Idea, Vodafone, Airtel to have a presence in such difficult areas. Such companies talk about patriotism and service to the nation, but their decision is based only on profit that they believe they might not get here,” police personnel in Sukma told the New Indian Express.