By -Subhasis K Chanda :With the country’s attention towards building a developed nation, much of the government’s policies are now centered on the rural areas. In order to ensure civic amenities and upgrade the lifestyle of the rural populace the Centre has started implementing various programmes of development under the ambit of Bharat Nirman in rural India. Rural telephone connectivity is one of them.
A Case Study – North-East
The North-East is a remote region of India consisting of eight states. Take an example of Ratachherra, a small village in the North district of Tripura – where Anath Pal, a grocery shopkeeper is the solo person having a telephone connection. A rural community phone has been installed in his shop in the village, connecting the hamlet with the rest of the world. There is no machine for measuring the pulse rate. Anath, the shopkeeper just keeps an eye on his watch and charges Re 1 for every one and half minutes.
As per the scheme, implemented by the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) the owner of the shop gets 50 paisa commission from each one and half minutes which fetches him a good earning at the end of the month. Contented Anath now keeps his shop open for the whole day to cater to the telephone service to the villagers and the passers-by.
Sujtit Malakar, a resident of Ratachherra said that this community telephone is of great help for the 1.5 thousand populace of the village as there is no other telephone connection in the village. A single land line connection in the area costs a lot of money. Much attention is being given to rural community phone and this facility has been provided to Kailashahar, Radhanagar, Krishnanagar, Jubarajnagar Lakshmipur, Sonaimuri, Ishabpur etc. The community phone has also been started in remote areas of Laljhuri, Shibnagar, Ujan Machmara, Karchanchara, South Monpui, Tuichama and Bhargmune under Kancharpur subdivision of the state. In North Tripura district, a total of 44 hamlets have been provided with rural telephone facility till now.
Grameen Sanchar Sewak
The Grameen Sanchar Sewak has brought a new dimension in the gamut of rural telephone service under Bharat Nirman programme. People of Gournagar and Chandipur in Kailashahar subdivision regularly come across Chandrahar Sinha and Prabin Debnath, both Gramin Sanchar Sevak carrying WLL phone with STD facility on their bicycles. According to Shri Pal, SDE (Phone) the North district will be provided with full fledged tele-communication facilities very soon. The district has 182 Gram Panchayats consisting 1054 hamlets.
The total population of the district is 5,97,071 as per 2001 census. Plan is that all the remote areas of the district will be brought under rural telephone connectivity. According to BSNL the WLL (Wireless in local loop) is a broader means for rural connectivity. Many base trunks are being setup. A Base Trans Receiver station will start operation soon in the remote Shermun hills too. With this endeavour taken by the Government, it is evident that the entire State especially the rural areas will get linked with the entire world through tele-connectivity very soon.
The latest decision of the Telecom Commission to waive license fee on rural landline telephones is an effort to promote telephone use in rural areas. The decision is also intended to give a boost to e-governance through provision of more broadband services in villages, thus reducing the digital divide. The waiver will amount to 200 crores rupees per year.
The Commission has also decided to reduce the Levy towards the Universal Service Obligation (USO) from the present 5 per cent to 3 per cent of the Adjusted Ground Revenue (AGR) in the case of those telecom service providers who have already covered more than 95 per cent of rural areas. The Universal Service Obligation Fund has been set up to create infrastructure support in rural and remote areas for providing telecommunications service to people at affordable and reasonable prices.
The decisions to boost rural telephony and e-governance is in line with the Government’s policy of promotion of rural telephony and accessibility of telephone in remote areas. The aim is to achieve rural teledensity of 25 per cent by means of 200 million rural connections at the end of the 11th Plan. The rural teledensity stood at 8 per cent as on December 31, 2007.
*Media & Communication Officer, PIB, Agartala