Government agencies are slow with procurement. This is common knowledge. Despite this common knowledge, the Telecom Minister and Mr Sam Pitroda decided to implement the NOFN using government entities only. It is also common practice for government entities to engage in the blame game, diverting precious effort from fixing the problems. All these not-unexpected things are happening right now.
“We’ve informed telecom minister Kapil Sibal at a recent NOFN review meeting that it will be impossible to extend broadband connectivity to 1 lakh GPs by March 31, 2014, since BSNL, RailTel and PowerGrid have not finalised the C&T tenders,” a top telecom department official told ET.
“Even if they manage to award the contracts by the month as promised, we will only be able to meet a tenth of the broadband coverage target in the first phase,” he added.
A senior executive of Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), which is the executing agency of the NOFN venture, complained that “umpteen reminders had been sent to BSNL, which will award 70% of the C&T contracts to multiple vendors, but to no avail”.
A BSNL director, in turn, blamed BBNL for the delays. He claimed that “awarding of C&T contracts had been held up in absence of key clearances from BBNL,” adding that all relevant tenders would be finalised this month. DoT is concerned that further delays in executing the crucial NOFN project could derail the government’s pan-India broadband penetration target of 175 million and 600 million subscribers by 2017 and 2020, respectively. At present, India has barely 15 million broadband customers.
The DoT is also upset that the contracts haven’t been finalised despite the Telecom Commission recommending a payout of Rs 2,700 crore as administrative fees to BSNL, PowerGrid and Rail-Tel to hasten NOFN rollout. The TC is the highest decision-making body in the communications ministry.