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Among the country's states, Odisha has the largest number of villages — 11,000 — without mobile telephone connectivity. None of these have a mobile tower, shows a survey by the department of telecom, with the help of the state government's electronics & information technology (IT) department. The state has a total of 51,565 villages, across 30 districts. “The matter has been flagged with the NITI Aayog. Beside, the state IT department has written to the secretary, telecom, to devise a programme to cover these 11,000 villages. Citizens there are deprived of various e-governance services,” said a government official. In the districts of Gajapati, Kanadhamal, Malkangiri and Rayagada, all in the Naxalite-affected belt, the percentage is high at 59 per cent, 70 per cent, 71 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively. All villages in the districts of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada, Balasore, Bhadrak and Jharsuguda are fully covered under mobile connectivity.
State government sources say of the country's 650,000 villages, around 38,000 lack mobile connectivity. “The (telecom) operators are not opting for these areas as it is not remunerative when it comes to return on investment. Left Wing Extremism isn't the sole reason,” said the official quoted earlier.To tempt operators to these villages, the state has promulgated an ‘Odisha Mobile Towers, Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) and Telecom Infrastructure Policy, 2017'. The policy, he said, "will streamline the process of application and grant of permission for installation of mobile towers, laying of OFC, in-building solutions and other telecom infrastructures within the specified timeline. This will help telecom service providers and infrastructure providers having licences from the department of telecom to obtain permission with a given timeframe. The focus is to have more penetration of connectivity in rural areas and the fee structure has been highly liberalised”.