State Govt wants compensation for giving right of way 

The West Bengal Government has raised objections to the Centre’s proposal for laying an optical fibre network connecting different Panchayats of the State. Objections come over lack of clarity on the amount of compensation to be paid for laying the optical fibre network in the State’s villages. The Department of Telecommunications had last year approved the Rs 20,000-crore National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) for broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh Panchayats across the country. NOFN is expected to help the government implement its various e-governance initiatives including the allotment of Aadhaar.

“The project demands a right of way of cable and does not specify any compensation to be paid to the State Government. We have raised objections to this since the burden of road repairs cannot be thrust on the State Government,” a senior official of the State IT department said. Without compensation, he said a huge economic burden will be thrust on the State. Right of way means legally granting access to lay cable lines beneath the road surface to ensure broadband connectivity.

DoT sources said that State Governments in Jharkhand, Daman & Diu and Uttarakhand have agreed to sign the MoU while Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have sought clarifications. In Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, the process of obtaining necessary Cabinet clearances are under way.

A special purpose vehicle of three public sector undertakings, that include BSNL, PowerGrid and RailTel, is supposed to execute the project. Central PSUs, according to West Bengal IT department officials, are yet to initiate a survey of the amount of cable network required for connecting Panchayats in the State. According to sources in the State IT department, the West Bengal Chief Secretary, Mr Samar Ghosh, has in June written to the DoT seeking clarity on the project. It has sought details as whether the State Government is eligible for compensation or not. Mr Ghosh was not available for comments.

abhishek.l@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 21, 2012)
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