Odisha has highest villages sans mobile connectivity in India

Bhubaneswar: In the backdrop of people threatening to boycott the ensuing Panchayat Polls at various places in the state protesting over absence of mobile connectivity, the Ministry of Communications has informed that as many as 6,099 villages in the state lack mobile connectivity and internet services.

As per the Ministry’s reply based on Telecom Service Providers (TSP) data in the Lok Sabha, Odisha has highest number of villages in  the country without mobile connectivity followed by Madhya Pradesh (2,612), Maharashtra (2,328) and Arunachal Pradesh (2,223). Besides, Chhattisgarh has 1,847, Andhra Pradesh 1,787, Meghalaya 1,674 and Jharkhand 1,144 villages that lack mobile connectivity.

However, few states, including Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Haryana have achieved highest penetration of mobile services in their villages.

The Ministry said out of total 5,97,618 inhabited villages across the country, 25,067 villages lack mobile connectivity and internet. As per official data, this makes up only about four per cent of villages that lack mobile connection services.

Also Read: ‘No network, no vote’: Zero nomination for several posts in 5 panchayats of Odisha’s Deogarh

In 2002, Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) scheme was launched to provide mobile connectivity in uncovered villages and make non-discriminatory access to ICT services affordable to people in remote areas. However, about 43 per cent or 11,000 villages included in USOF remain without Internet connectivity.

Earlier on November 17 last year, the Union Cabinet had approved the scheme for about 3,933 uncovered villages in Odisha to provide high-speed mobile and internet connectivity. The villages belong to 10 aspirational districts– Kandhamal, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Gajapati, Koraput, Malkangiri, Balangir and Dhenkanal.

Overall, the scheme was approved to provide 4G mobile services in total 7,287 uncovered villages of 44 aspirational districts across five states–Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra– at a cost of Rs 6,466 crore.

On the day, Union Railway Minister  Ashwini Vaishnaw had stated that the project will be completed within 18 months after the signing of the agreement.

Worth mentioning, residents of five panchayats of Tileibani block in Deogarh district did not file any nomination for Sarpanch, Samiti Member and Ward Member posts for the upcoming Panchayat Polls, expressing resentment over absence of mobile phone towers in their areas. The nil nomination was reported in Parposhi, Jharagogua, Jharmunda, Gandam and Dimirikuda Panchayats.

In another incident last month, anguished residents of Bandhapari Panchayat in Kalahandi district invited the Lanjigarh MLA Pradeep Kumar Dishari to inaugurate a symbolic mobile tower made of bamboo as a mark of protest over their long-pending demand for setting up of a mobile phone tower in the area.

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