DEHRADUN: In an era when 5G is about to become part of our daily lives, 434 villages in Uttarakhand are still in the 'dark zone' sans any network coverage.
According to data provided by the Information Technology Development Agency, out of a total of 15,745 villages in the hill state, 434 of them didn't have network service availability till May 2020.
Amit Sinha, director of ITDA said, "We are working towards providing mobile network into these villages and soon the mission will be accomplished. Under Bharat Net scheme, plans are also being implemented to upgrade services in 3738 villages of the state."
Of the deprived villages, 91 are from Pithoragarh district, followed by Chamoli (82), Bageshwar (61), Pauri (58), Uttarkashi (43), Almora (21), Champawat (21), Rudraprayag (20), Nainital (18), Dehradun (08), Tehri (05), Haridwar (05) and Udham Singh Nagar (3).
Amid border tensions with Nepal and China in 2020, the Uttarakhand state cabinet in an attempt to boost net connectivity had approved an incentive of up to Rs 40 lakh for companies who decided to set up mobile towers in remote areas of the state.
Border villages in the state in fact, are compelled to use Nepalese sim cards due to a dearth of services from Indian network providers, which include government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).
Receding population along the Uttarakhand-Nepal-China border stretch has become a cause of concern for Indian security forces amid escalating tensions with neighbours.
According to reports of Uttarakhand Rural Development and Migration Commission, 14 villages have been completely deserted since 2011 while in many other parts, the population has declined by a significant margin.
In June 2020, residents of 49 villages in Pithoragarh district, which is along the border with China and Nepal, were equipped with satellite phones, post which there were complaints of inflated call rates of upto Rs 30 per minute.
Uttarakhand government officials had said that the call charges would be fixed at Rs 12 per minute and an SMS would also cost the same amount.
International calls have been fixed at Rs 260 per minute and the same for an SMS.
Locals, however, say that this is not sufficient and robust infrastructure is needed to combat the problem.