NEW DELHI: Three decades and two technological upgrades after it was conceived in 1989, the Union home ministry’s ambitious POLNET (Police Network) project, a satellite-based wide area network for modernising police telecommunication, today covers only six states and two Union Territories even as the initial plan was to cover all police stations across the country.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla was briefed about POLNET and its slow progress during his visit to the DCPW’s CGO Complex office here on May 25.
This was followed by a meeting on May 26 when DCPW Director R K Siddhartha briefed senior MHA officials about the project status.
Conceived as far back as 1989, POLNET, which was to have been commissioned in 1998, was designed to connect all the police stations with a secure and integrated satellite communication network. According to the Directorate of Coordination Police Wireless (DCPW), the project is an “amalgamation of different VSAT technologies”.
Officially launched in 2002, POLNET was supposed to connect India’s then 11,502 police stations and the central paramilitary forces through a satellite-based communication network.
Bharat Electronics Ltd won the contract for setting up the VSAT-based satellite network but, according to sources, failed to “move forward”.
By 2007, only about 2,500 police stations were connected by POLNET. According to a home ministry assessment at that time, POLNET equipment and gadget installation was not possible across 6,000 police stations on account of difficult terrain.
When the home ministry felt the need for an upgradation, a new request for proposal – for POLNET 2.0 – was chalked out. A Bangalore-based MSME, ADTL won the contract in 2019. In January 2020, ADTL put in place a “basic network” and subsequently “over 800 VSAT terminals”.
ADTL MD Col (retd) H S Shankar said POLNET 1.0 was “total chaos”, but now communication is “faster”. “The project is advancing satisfactorily,” he said.
Sources said that besides bureaucratic feet-dragging, the other reasons for the delay in linking all the state police forces has been due to hostile terrain conditions and the ever increasing number of police stations.