BharatNet project to be rolled out in 16 states via PPP

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the revised implementation strategy of BharatNet through Public-Private Partnership mode in 16 states. An official statement said that BharatNet will now extend up to all inhabited villages beyond Gram Panchayats (GPs) in these states — Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. An estimated 3.61 lakh villages including GPs will be covered.

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the decision to involve private players was taken after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on August 15, 2020 that around 6 lakh villages in the country will be connected with broadband in 1,000 days. The approval comes after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the revised strategy and the additional allocation on Monday. The revised strategy also includes creation, upgradation, operation, maintenance and utilisation of BharatNet by the concessionaire who will be selected by a competitive international bidding process. The estimated maximum viability gap funding approved for the above PPP model is Rs 19,041 crore. Prasad said till date, 1.56 lakh out of the 2.5 lakh village panchayats have been connected with broadband.

The Cabinet also accorded an in-principle approval for extending BharatNet to cover all inhabited villages in the remaining states and union territories, and the department of telecommunication will separately work out the modalities for the remaining states and UTs.