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New Delhi, NFAPost: The parliamentary standing committee on information technology clearly states that BSNL, RailTel and PGCIL are incompetent departments as they miserabliy failed in implementing the government’s ambitious  BharatNet project

The committee expressed its displeasure at the slow pace at which BSNL, RailTel and PGCIL implemented the first phase of BharatNet project to bring internet connectivity to rural India.

BharatNet is project considered key to realising PM Modi’s Digital India vision. However, the panel says, the private firms would have done better.

IT Standing Committe

The report which has presented to Lok Sabha, the IT standing committee said the way the project [BharatNet] had been implemented by the 3 CPSUs [Central Public Sector Undertaking] clearly indicated that they lacked competency and sufficient expertise to implement the project of this size.

“It simply gives an impression that the task could have been performed better by any other private agencies/global companies interested with the project,” states the committee.

The three CPSUs were chosen to lay fiber under phase I of the project -BSNL, RailTel and Power Grid Corporation of India Limited . The question is on how they have implemented the first phase of BharatNet. Initially called the National Optical Fibre Network, BharatNet was approved by the government in October 2011.

Optical fibre network

The project’s aim is to bring internet connectivity to all 2.50 lakh gram panchayats in India through optical fibre to provide a faster, more reliable internet connection. The committee noted: “BharatNet is the backbone and important pillar of ‘Digital India’ and the success of Digital India programme squarely rests on the success of BharatNet project.”

The committee added that the Digital India program was launched to bring “knowledge economy and to transform the entire concept of governance by making it more transparent and accessible to the citizen”.

The committee noted that the Union cabinet had approved a modified strategy in July 2017 to implement BharatNet to avoid shortcomings that slowed down the first phase of the project.

Railtel and BharatNet

Under the new strategy, during Phase-II, the remaining 1.50 lakh gram panchayats will get optical fiber and even wireless connections. The deadline for this phase, set for August 2021, was reportedly extended given the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions.

RailTel particularly received a bad review for its poor progress in implementing BharatNet.

“The Committee note that under Phase-I, among all the CPSUs, the performance of RailTel was the poorest and in view of its poor performance, RailTel had not been allocated any work under Phase-II.”

About BSNL and PGCIL continuing with Phase-II of BharatNet, the committee said it hopes the two PSU’s performance will improve. The committee added it would like “stringent measures, such as ‘penalty clause’ for not achieving the targets” to be applied to the CPSUs.

On this point, the report notes that the committee has a response from “the Government” that states the tenders floated for work under the project have an “indirect penalty” to ensure timely completion of work.

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