In its preliminary finding, the CAG has said the Narendra Modi government’s BharatNet programme, which intends to connect six lakh villages with high-speed Internet, failed to take off due to financial irregularities.
Quoting this preliminary report by the Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG), the Congress on Saturday claimed that large scale corruption is the primary reason for shunting out Ravi Shankar Prasad from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY).
In a 94-page draft report, the CAG said despite a huge payment to CSC, or Common Service Centres set up by the Ministry, the maintenance of cable and other infrastructure was not found efficient in various circles.
This resulted in poor quality of service at a gram panchayat or village block level, the report said. It has also quoted many instances where work was completed only on paper.
The report has pointed out that a payment of ₹386.42 crore and ₹116.50 crore was made between July 2019 and December 2020 to CSC under this Ministry.
The arrangement is part of a tripartite agreement for operations and maintenance of optical fibre cable network, telecom equipment and Wi-Fi access points between the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) and CSC done in July 2019 and approved by the Digital Communication Commission (DCC) in September 2020.
USOF is a ₹55,000 crore state reserve for the bridging the digital divide, and is also funding the ambitious BharatNet project that aims to connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats or village blocks encompassing more than six lakh villages across India.
The agreement didn’t have a service level agreement which prescribed a timeline for restoration of faults or any penalty clause to ensure that there was no delay in rectification of faults occurring in BharatNet Phase-I.
At a press conference on Saturday, senior Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera demanded an independent, high-level, time-bound enquiry into the findings.
Quoting the report, Mr. Khera said a devious modus operandi was used for redirecting the government money to private companies without following due process.
He asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tell the country what action will be taken against persons who siphoned off funds to the tune of thousands of crores.
He asked, “Is this the reason for removing Ravi Shankar Prasad from Cabinet and is the removal of a minister from the Union Cabinet enough?”
The Congress leader also asked how much has the company, or the maze of companies which have benefited from the MEITY, have donated to the BJP