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PM hails BharatNet programme: MediaNama assesses its progress

Modi at red fort

In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the government’s BharatNet programme under which 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the country will be connected using optical fibre. “If you see, prior to 2014, only 5 dozen panchayats had the optical fiber network. However, in the last 5 years, 1.5 lakh panchayats are connected with the optical fiber network which is helping us today, immensely. We are working on the goal of taking it to every panchayat and this work is in progress in the remaining one lakh panchayats,” Modi said. However, by March 2015, 5,000 gram panchayats had been connected under the BharatNet programme, a 2015 report from a committee constituted by the Modi government 1.0 said. But this isn't new; the project has been beleaguered by shifting goalposts from its very inception under UPA II, about a decade ago. Modi further set a target of 1,000 days (May 12, 2023) for connecting over six lakh villages with optical fibre. He also referenced the 400 Gbps undersea cable link, the Chennai-Andaman Nicobar Island (CANI) system, he inaugurated on August 10, through which Andaman and Nicobar Islands have optical fibre connectivity, and set a 1,000-day target for Lakshwadeep Islands: "We are aiming at providing high speed internet connectivity to Lakshadweep islands in the next 1000 days." What is the BharatNet scheme? The BharatNet scheme, which was established as the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) by the UPA II government in October 2011, has been beset by shifting goalposts from…

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