Grave neglect: 70% villages in Leh, Kargil don’t have telecommunication facilities

Numerous communications to Union Govt fail to yield results

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Jan 25: In a testimony of grave neglect, 70% villages in twin border districts of Leh and Kargil don’t have telecommunication facilities especially at a time when the Union Government is talking much about Digital India campaign. This is mainly because no seriousness has so far been shown by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) towards numerous communications sent by the elected representatives of people highlighting the urgency of ensuring proper telecommunication connectivity to the strategically important region.
As per the official figures available with EXCELSIOR, there are a total of 242 villages in Ladakh region—113 in Leh district and 129 in Kargil district.
Astonishingly, only 80 villages have been provided telecommunication facilities till date as against a total of 242 villages thereby establishing that telecommunication has yet not made inroads in vast area of Ladakh, which otherwise is strategically very important because of having borders with two hostile neighbors—Pakistan and China.
It is pertinent to mention here that Kargil district has long border with Pakistan while as in Leh there is Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and both the neighbors have succeeded in extending all the facilities to the villages along the borders with India. On the contrary, vast population in Leh and Kargil districts is still awaiting even telecommunication facilities.
The neglecting attitude towards Ladakh region in this particular field can be gauged from the fact that even some exterior parts of Kargil town don’t have proper telecommunication facilities while as there remains frequent disruption in the services in those areas which otherwise are claimed to have been provided proper telecommunication facilities.
Similar is the situation in Leh town where even two private players are also operating besides Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited. Two days back the issue of complete snapping of internet services in the Leh town was raised by the elected representative of the people in the Legislative Assembly. If this is the situation in Leh town despite having three operators what would be the quality of service in other parts of the district remains a million dollar question.
In the past, the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) had directed the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to prepare a draft project report for providing mobile coverage in the uncovered areas which include several villages of Leh and Kargil districts.
“The report is yet to be submitted to BSNL Corporate Office for consideration and approval of Department of Telecommunication (DoT) and USOF”, sources said, adding “it would be only after approval of the DPR and fund availability, action for providing mobile coverage in these villages will be taken”. They, however, expressed inability to specify time-frame for start of work on providing telecommunication facilities to ignored villages of Leh and Kargil.
“The vast population of both the border districts is still without telecommunication connectivity notwithstanding the much hype of Union Government about Digital India campaign”, sources said.
It is pertinent to mention here that Digital India is a campaign launched by the Government of India to ensure that Government services are made available to citizens electronically by improved online infrastructure and by increasing internet connectivity or by making the country digitally empowered in the field of technology.
When contacted, MLA from Leh, Nawang Rigzin Jora said, “in the recent past I had written to the Union Minister with the request to improve and expand telecommunication facilities in Leh”, adding “I have neither received any response from the Union Government nor the BSNL has initiated any step for providing telecommunication facilities to the neglected areas of the district”.
Similarly, MLA Kargil, Asgar Ali Karbalaie said, “I had approached the Union Government when I was Chief Executive Officer of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Kargil but no positive response was received”.
“Even in the recent past a communication was sent to the Union Minister, CMD of BSNL and senior functionaries of BSNL in J&K in this regard but it seems that nobody is interested in extending telecommunication facilities to uncovered areas”, he regretted.
It is worthwhile to mention here that last year the Telecom Advisory Committee in a meeting held under the chairmanship of Member Parliament from Ladakh Thupstan Chhewang had also stressed the need for immediate steps for expansion of telecommunication facilities to unconnected villages but no step has been initiated on ground till date.