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Door-to-door cells in villages

New Delhi, Dec. 3: Rural India is going cellular: the humble postman will now deliver a door-to-door mobile service in 7,500 villages across the country from December 25.

The department of posts and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd have joined hands to kick off the pilot project, which would be the second launch that day after the country’s second national expressway between Ahmedabad and Vadodra. The surface transport ministry is racing to complete the expressway for the scheduled inauguration by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who celebrates his birthday the same day.

The mobile postman project, called the Grameen Sanchar Sewak scheme (GSS), will be implemented through the postal department’s Grameen Dak Sewak delivery agents (GDSDA). The agents will work as BSNL franchisees in rural areas.

About 2,000 GSS in the chosen villages will carry an integrated fixed wireless terminal with a display unit that BSNL will supply. The scheme will cover the entire country, except the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Haryana and Punjab telecom regions. It has been modelled on BSNL’s existing public call office franchisee scheme, including tariff.

For each call of 100-200 km, the GSS will get Re 1 as service charge and Rs 2 on all calls beyond 200 km. The GSS can also earn Rs 5 for passing on the message to the villager concerned. The postman will carry a ready reckoner to calculate the charge.

The postal department will earn 20 per cent of the revenue from all outgoing calls based on bills the BSNL raises. For calls made from GSS equipment, it will receive 5 per cent of the total revenue thus earned. But the GSS will have to deposit Rs 20 every month with the postal department as insurance premium for the BSNL-supplied equipment.

“We expect this to be an important effort to increase accessibility to communications services,’’ said BSNL chairman and managing director Prithipal Singh. “This will also help the GSS earn more.”

But a BSNL official said it won’t earn more revenue as the scheme will be launched in areas considered unremunerative.

This means that the network management and maintenance in the area is an additional burden.

“We won’t be able to earn back even the investment for very long. By then, we would need a subsidy to maintain the project,” the official said.

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