Cabinet approves USOF scheme for provision of mobile services in Meghalaya

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved Implementation of a Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan (CTDP) for the North Eastern Region (NER) in Meghalaya at a total estimated project cost of Rs. 3911 crore to be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and approval of the enhanced cost of CTDP Project for NER for an amount of Rs. 8120.81 crore (Rs. 5336.18 crores already approved by the Cabinet on 10.09.2014).

The significance of this move:

This network would be used by the security personnel deployed in LWE affected areas.

The project will also provide the mobile services to help the residents in unconnected inhabited villages which would improve the economic activities in the region.

It will give impetus to the e-Governance activities in the backward and LWE affected area with the availability of digital mobile connectivity.

What are LWE affected states?

Districts which span 10 States — Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — are described as those affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE) and constitute the ‘Red Corridor.

The considerations on which the government has examined the districts with LWE features are:

Their violence profile.

An assessment of the kind of logistical and other support provided to armed Maoist cadres by their sympathizers and over ground workers.

The kind of positive changes brought about by development work that these districts have seen.

Universal Service Obligation Fund:

USOF, established in 2002, provides effective subsidies to ensure telegraph services are provided to everyone across India, especially in the rural and remote areas. It is headed by the USOF Administrator who reports to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

Funds come from the Universal Service Levy (USL) of 5% charged from all the telecom operators on their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which are then deposited into the Consolidated Fund of India and require prior parliamentary approval to be dispatched.

The USOF works through a bidding process, where funds are given to the enterprise quoting the lowest bid. However, the funds for NOFN were made an exception to this process since BBNL was the sole party involved in the implementation having been specifically created for it.

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