How BharatNet Will Bring 2.5 Lakh Villages On The Digital Expressway?

The ambitious BharatNet project which is the center of attraction has got a boost in cash this week when Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Finance Minister announced the additional outlay of Rs 19,000 crore. It is the largest connectivity program all over the world and is a major component of Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative, which aims to change India into a digitally empowered country and knowledge economy.

What to know about the BharatNet project?

In simple words, the BharatNet project aims to bring broadband internet connectivity to more than 2.6 lakh gram panchayats all over the country. Bharat Broadband Network Limited is implementing the project, a special purpose vehicle of the government, and the access will be enabled at a primary level of village administration to services that can be accessed digitally such as tele-education, tele-medicine, e-entertainment, and e-health.

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As per the Digital India portal, it will bring more than 700 million people residing in rural India on to the information superhighway as it connects “gram panchayat level offices such as panchayat offices, schools, post offices, etc. and ensures internet connectivity everywhere.

Therefore, the project essentially entails the government creating infrastructure to address issues related to internet penetration in rural India at a time when digital growth represents the next big leap in the social and economic spheres.

As it is related to the BharatNet project, the connectivity through Wi-Fi will also be provided along with other means and hotspots will be settled in all gram panchayats, Digital India further added.

What is the budget and who is funding it?

The cash infusion from the minister has taken spending behind this project of about Rs 61,000 crore. As per the government, funds for this project will be allocated as a whole and not the union territory or state-wise. A lump-sum amount will be allocated and disbursed from USOF to BBNL for executing the BharatNet project.

Where the project has reached?

Till the May of this year, more than 1.60 lakh of total gram panchayats had made the service ready for rolling the BharatNet service. This year in March, the centre told Lok Sabha that this year while the project had to be completed till August 2021, time is now extended for completing the project as it is affected by lockdown and restrictions have been made on several movements imposed by the government due to Covid-19.

Earlier, the government stated that delay in implementing and commencement of the project has led to strengthening the project timelines.

This year in March, more than 6 lakh km of wires have been laid which is also part of the project, the centre told the parliament. They further added, broadband with the help of satellites will be provided in more than 5,300-gram panchayats situated in hilly and remote locations and more than 3,700 of them are ready for service.

Where the Gram Panchayats has been covered till now?

Uttar Pradesh has seen the maximum progress made in certain terms. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh come under top-three which the BharatNet project has covered already.