Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that the Union cabinet has approved the public-private partnership model with a viability gap funding (VGF) of Rs 19,041 crore for the rollout of the BharatNet project. The project aims to provide high-speed broadband services to villages across 16 states in India.
Prasad said that access to broadband in rural areas will improve e-governance, telemedicine, online education and develop entrepreneurship.
PM Modi’s announcement in 2020
Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, last year, had announced that 6 lakh villages in the country will be connected with broadband within 1,000 days. The 16 beneficiary states include Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
Details of the project
While sharing the details of the Cabinet approval, the Union minister said, “The Cabinet has in-principle approved implementation of BharatNet in 16 states in a public-private partnership model with total expense of Rs 29,430 crore. The government of India will only spend the viability gap fund of Rs 19,041 crore.”
To date, 1.56 lakh out of the 2.5 lakh village panchayats have been connected with broadband, he said. “The PPP model shall be executed in 16 states of India in 3.61 lakh villages,” Prasad added. An official statement said the Cabinet also accorded in-principle approval for extending BharatNet to cover all inhabited villages in the remaining states and union territories.
“The Department of Telecommunication will separately work out the modalities for these (remaining) States/UTs,” the statement added. The minister said there will be an agreement of 30 years with private players and the entire project will be divided into nine packages.
“No player will get more than four packages,” Prasad said. He said that each package corresponds to a telecom circle area. “If you calculate the opex and capex of 30 years, then it comes to around Rs 95,000 crore if the government of India had executed it. Compared to this, the government is setting up this architecture for viability gap funding of Rs 19,041 crore,” Prasad said.
Total outlay for BharatNet project surges to Rs 61k crore
Earlier this week, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the additional Rs 19,041 crore fund increases the total outlay for the BharatNet project to Rs 61,109 crore. Sitharaman had said Rs 42,068 crore has been already utilised for reaching 1,56,223 gram panchayats that are now ready for broadband services as of May 31.
To read the latest news in Gujarati click here