All villages to be connected with optical fibre in next 1,000 days: What PM Modi promised, what’s the truth
Photo Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the nation on 74th Independence Day, on Saturday said that every village in India will be connected, within 1,000 days, to a fibre optic cable network.

Besides, a high speed internet connectivity via submarine optical fibre cable will be extended to Lakshadweep in this period, he said. Addressing the nation from the Red Fort on India's 74th Independence Day, he pointed out that only five dozen panchayats in the country were connected with optical fibre cable before 2014. Amid threats emanating from cyber space, the prime minister also announced a new policy on cyber security which will be unveiled soon.

In the last five years, 1.5 lakh village panchayats have been connected with optical fibre cable, Modi said. "In the next 1,000 days, all villages in the country will be connected with optical fibre," he said, adding

But, the reality is different from PM Modi's expectation. The government aims to connect all gram panchayats and villages in the country via BharatNet. The Manmohan Singh-led UPA government initiated the National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) programme in 2011, but the Modi government renamed the programme as BharatNet.

But, the BharatNet is still a dream for many Indian villages. According to a report by Indian Express, as of January 2020, under BharatNet phase two, against the target of providing last mile connectivity to 1.5 lakh gram panchayats, only about 7.45 per cent of these have been made service. While only about 92,283 km of cable has been laid down as of December end, as against a target of laying down 3.11 lakh km of optical fibre cable, the report added.

Meanwhile, till February 2020, the number of Wi-Fi hotspots installed in the villages stood at a mere 45,769, only 18,041 of them are operative, states a report by Financial Express. This is as per the data provided by Sanjay Dhotre, MoS for Communications, Human Resource Development, and Electronics & Information Technology, in a reply to a question in Lok Sabha in February.

The project is being implemented in three phases. Phase 1 covered 1 lakh gram panchayats, Phase 2 targeting 1.5 lakh, and Phase 3 is supposed to focus on infrastructure up-gradation of the existing facility.

But, the second phase of BharatNet looks like is getting delayed, several states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh have written to the central government, asking for more funds to start work on the second phase, reported Indian Express. The report further adds that BharatNet project, which initially began as the National Optical Fibre Network in October 2011, has been delayed for over 92 months now and the new deadline is August 2021.

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