A total of Rs 122.4 crore has been paid out as commissions to Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) who help facilitate routine operations in Common Service Centres across the country, the ministry of IT and communications informed in a Rajya Sabha query.

VLEs are individuals who help CSCs in completing routine operations such as:
-Government to Consumer (G2C) services that includes issuance of Birth Certificates, PAN cards, Aadhaar Cards, Pass port services, etc.
-Business to Consumer (B2C) services including Mobile/DTH recharge, IRCTC bookings, ecommerce services, bill payments, etc.
-Educational Services like tutorials, courses, literacy schemes, etc.
-Financial services including Pension, Insurance, and other banking schemes.

There are 199,325 Common Service Centers (CSCs) across 29 states and 7 Union territories as of March 2016. A total of 23,245 VLEs are women, according to the IT ministry. However it did not disclose the total number of VLEs registered in the country.

BharatNet connectivity

The IT ministry has also instructed the Department of Telecommunication to link all CSCs under the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project, which was introduced in 2011. Bandwidth under NOFN is being offered at “a promotional tariff of Rs 700  per Mbps bandwidth per year for each gram panchayat.”

The NOFN is a Rs 20,000 crore project, which aims to connect 2.5 lakh villages with broadband connectivity. Additionally, state governments have been instructed to relocate or co-locate all CSCs outside the reach of the NOFN program to gram panchayat premises having connectivity.

One of the key purpose of CSCs include facilitating delivery of various e-services/e-governance schemes to rural and remote locations where availability of Internet is ‘negligible or mostly absent’.  

Reach of NOFN: The NOFN was later renamed as ‘BharatNet’ and the government had reportedly laid optical fibre in 36,738 gram panchayats till 17 January. It originally planned to roll out cables in 50,000 panchayats by March. Its aim is to connect 90,000 villages by fiscal 2017 end. However, only 4,000 villages have been linked to the network, according to a GovernanceNow report.

CSC tie ups with corporates/organizations

-In February, Intel had opened 10 Unnati Kendras in Telangana, under which each CSC was planned to be equipped with Intel powered devices, local language content and various training modules.

– In February last year, Flipkart signed an MoU with the CSC to work out a mechanism to help Common Service Centers (CSCs) pan India to leverage Flipkart’s e-commerce platform.

– In 2014, tied up with CSC to launch a new e-KYC based job portal for rural India.

– In 2013, Airtel Money, Bharti Airtel’s mobile money offering, had tied up with CSC to provide banking facilities via common service centers, in three districts of Uttar Pradesh.

Also Read: India to pilot test online agricultural trading facility for farmers in 8 states

 Image Credit: Flickr user CIAT under CC BY-SA 2.0

Note: This story has been re-written for better clarity and brevity