AAP’s free wi-fi project hits another hurdle

The Asian Age.  | sanjay kaw

Metros, Delhi

PWD cites lack of expertise to execute scheme.

Leader of the Opposition Vijender Gupta

New Delhi: The AAP government’s most ambitious free wi-fi project is once again hanging in a limbo with the public works department (PWD) making it clear that it does not have the expertise to implement it in the national capital.

Prior to the Assembly elections in 2015, providing free wi-fi connectivity was the major promise that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had made to the Delhiites. After coming to power, the AAP government had also roped in its think tank, Dialogue and Development Commission (DDC), to fast-track this project.

It was in December last year that the information technology (IT) minister, Kailash Gahlot, decided to set up a high-level committee for the speedy implementation of the project. On February 2, a committee of experts drawn from Delhi IIT and NSIT was set up to prepare a pilot project for the Patparganj Assembly constituency.

Sources said during one of the pre-Budget meetings with his officers, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had asked the then PWD engineer-in-chief, Sarvagya Srivastava, whether his department could take up the project. The officer had reportedly given his nod for the same. Now, the PWD has reportedly made it clear that it does not have the expertise to undertake this ambitious project.

Earlier, the project could not be implemented due to lack of coordination between the IT department and the DDC. The government was to create 1,000 hotspots across the city to provide free wi-fi in the first phase on a trial basis.

While presenting the Budget in the Assembly last month, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had made a fresh allocation of Rs 100 crore to provide wi-fi facilities. However, fearing failure, the government had not included the scheme in the outcome Budget. It had also not set any timeline for its implementation.

Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta said that the government has wasted more than three precious years in identifying the department which could implement the programme. He said Mr Kejriwal can blame neither the Central government nor the L-G (lieutenant-governor) for his government’s failure as the implementation of this project solely lies within the powers of the city administration.