Furthering its move to tackle the burgeoning naxal menace in the country, the government has set up 1,356 mobile towers in Maoist-hit areas, benefiting thousands of people and security personnel who live in remote inaccessible regions.
The towers were installed by state-run BSNL as part of an ambitious project to install 2,199 mobile towers in nine Maoist-hit states by March end of this year. An additional 175 mobile towers were also sanctioned by the Home Ministry for installation recently.
Considering the frequent electricity interruption, the towers are powered by solar energy. Also all of these are installed either in police stations or camps of police and paramilitary forces as the Maoists have often been targeting such towers in the past, official sources said.
Though the Union Cabinet had approved the Rs 3,046 crore project nearly three years ago, the funds for the project was provided from the Universal Service Obligation Fund, a corpus being created by the government through raising the Universal Access Levy (UAL).
The beneficiary states from the project include Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra. In the first phase, the towers were installed in 35 worst Naxal-hit areas (rpt) areas and majority of them in Jharkhand — around 700 towers, sources said.
More than 200 mobile towers were blown up in last few years in nine states by Maoists who claim that police were being tipped off about their movements and locations by informers through mobile phones.
The idea was mooted after receiving complaints of poor mobile connectivity from security forces and people engaged in development projects in these states. The Ministry of Home Affairs was pushing for the installation of mobile towers in Naxal-hit areas since 2010.
The absence of mobile services has also made it tough for security forces to operate and get timely help in critical situations, leading to loss of lives in some incidents.