Committee of 10 bureaucrats fails to finalize J&K Communication & Connectivity Policy

Over 325 inhabited villages yet to get mobile services
Issues relating to telecom infrastructure remain unresolved

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, July 6: A committee of 10 senior bureaucrats of the State has failed to finalize the draft Jammu and Kashmir Communication and Connectivity Infrastructure Policy-2019 and resolve the issues relating to telecom infrastructure within the time-frame fixed by the Government. The delay in this regard is notwithstanding the fact that over 325 inhabited villages are still without mobile services and majority of the Gram Panchayats have yet not been provided with benefits of BharatNet scheme of the Government of India.
Vide Order No.563-GAD of 2019 dated May 9, 2019, the General Administration Department constituted a committee to examine the draft J&K Communication and Connectivity Infrastructure Policy-2019 framed by the Information Technology Department and also seek comments from various stakeholders for its finalization.
The committee headed by Administrative Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department and comprising of Administrative Secretaries of Home, Power Development, Forest, Environment and Ecology, Revenue and Information Technology Departments, Divisional Commissioners of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, Development Commissioner Power and State Head of Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) Cell, Department of Telecom, Government of India was asked to complete the task positively within a period of 20 days—by ending May.
However, the committee has failed to finalize the draft J&K Communication and Connectivity Infrastructure Policy-2019 and resolve the issues relating to telecom-connectivity in the State even one and half month after the completion of deadline fixed by the Government, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
To facilitate installation of telecom infrastructure in the State in a time bound manner, the committee was required to resolve Right of Way issues; ensure that the policy of the State is in alignment with the Central Right of Way Rules of November 2016; ensure single window Right of Way clearance; Right of Way for border areas; suggest measures to overcome delay in Right of Water clearance from the Forest Department and resolve issues pertaining to permission for installation of telecom infrastructure at sites near Dal Lake and other water bodies etc.
Fixing of deadline of 20 days for acting on these terms of reference was clear indication about State Government’s eagerness to finalize the much-needed policy in a time-bound manner. “However, by not sticking to the time-frame for completion of task the committee is contributing to delay in resolution of connectivity issues”, sources said while expressing inability to specify time-frame for finalization of draft policy by the committee.
“No doubt all the bureaucrats who are the Chairperson and members of the committee are looking after the affairs of the important departments but finalization of draft J&K Communication and Connectivity Infrastructure Policy and resolving issues relating to telecom infrastructure is equally important and they should have spared sufficient time from their routine administrative affairs to handle the additional assignment”, sources said, adding “while framing committees on important subjects the Government must ensure that these panels strictly meet the timelines for the completion of task”.
As per the data of the Telecom Service Providers, there are 328 inhabited villages in the State which are not covered by mobile services. “The reasons for not having mobile services in these villages include remote and tough terrain, areas diversely located with scattered population and commercially non-viable operations”, sources said.
The committee was also required to suggest measures so that inhabitants of these villages too enjoy the benefits of the mobile services, sources further said while disclosing that there are 9525 mobile towers of all telecom service providers and 300 telephone exchanges in Jammu and Kashmir.
It is pertinent to mention here that in Himachal Pradesh, which is having terrain almost similar to that of Jammu and Kashmir, there are only 211 inhabited villages which are not covered by mobile services.
BharatNet, one of the biggest rural telecom projects aimed at providing broadband connectivity to all the Gram Panchayats, is also being implemented with dilly-dallying approach in Jammu and Kashmir.
This is evident from the official figures, which reveal that out of over 4000 Gram Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir only 368 have been connected with optical fiber till date while as only 881 Gram Panchayats have been provided with broadband connectivity.