The delay in the implementation of BharatNet project has led to Department of Telecom (DoT) Secretary Aruna Sundararajan taking tough action over the last few days.
Between November 1 and 14, Sundararajan transferred eight senior officials, including Deputy Director Generals (DDG) and Joint Administrative Officers at DoT, to other departments or branches across States with immediate effect, sources toldBusinessLine .
Most of the transferred officials were part of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), and were among the keys persons in charge of the project, which is meant to connect all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats (GPs) in the country by March 2019.
The role of USOF, under the DoT, is to provide widespread and non-discriminatory access to quality information communication services (internet) at affordable prices to people in rural and remote areas.
The transferred USOF officials are SK Gupta, Senior DDG (Licensing Finance Policy, DoT headquarters); Mahmood Ahmed, Joint Administrator (USOF, DoT headquarters); Sudhir Bhandari, DDG (USOF); Lalit Gangal, DDG (USOF); and Mohammed Mahomood Ur Rehman, Director (USOF) – they have been transferred to other States or other branches in the DoT headquarters itself, sources said.
BusinessLine tried to reach out to some of these officials, but they were unavailable for comments.
The transfers came after many review meetings by both Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha and Secretary Sundararajan, in which they found poor operations and maintenance and utilisation of BharatNet infrastructure.
This also forced Sundararajan to also write a harsh letter on November 2 to both Sanjay Singh, CMD of BBNL, and Anupam Srivastava, CMD of BSNL, saying that extensive field reports found “non-functioning of connectivity provided in 80-90 per cent of the GPs as well as massive under-utilisation/non-utilisation of the project”.
Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) are the main infrastructure companies under the government undertaking the project. However, as of October, only 1.15 lakh GPs are service-ready, and though clear utilisation target has already been set, the actual utilisation on the ground is understood to be less than 10 per cent of the target.
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