KLI PROJECT: TEMA MOVES COURT SEEKING JUSTICE FOR DOMESTIC PLAYERS, DEMANDS BIFURCATION OF PROJECT

TENDER CONDITIONS BY BSNL VIOLATES ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT NORMS: TEMA

NEW DELHI, JULY 30, 2021: The issue of laying undersea optical fibre cable (OFC) link between Kochi and Lakshdweep, also known as KLI Project, has now reached the court. In its petition before the Delhi High Court, which will be heard on August 2, 2021, the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India (TEMA) has sought directions to the government to bifurcate the Rs.1072 crore tender to connect mainland Kochi to 11 islands of Lakshdweep into two parts so that domestic companies can take part in it.

In its petition, the TEMA has argued that the Telecom Ministry and the BSNL, which is implementing the project, are ignoring Indian entrepreneurs from bidding by incorporating certain conditions which could not be fulfilled by Indian or domestic entrepreneurs.

In its plea, the TEMA has said that the tender does not fulfil the basic guidelines issued by Government of India for Atamnirbhar Bharat to give maximum opportunities to Indian/domestic parties. TEMA has argued that the project which involves installation of ‘Repeaters’ in the undersea OFC after every 100-110 kms is not only an old/outdated technology but also involves higher cost to the project. TEMA has further emphasised that this technology is not being preferred worldwide now. Moreover, it puts additional financial burden on public exchequer, a fact which has been ignored by the BSNL.

TEMA has urged that court that if any domestic bidder is unable to fulfil the criteria fixed by BSNL, the project could be split in segments. Indian bidders, who could fulfil the terms and conditions of that particular segment, should be preferred over the foreign bidder. And in case any Indian bidder cannot fulfil the conditions of particular segment, that segment should be offered to foreign bidder. Unless such projects are not offered to Indian parties, the Government’s goal of Atamnirbhar Bharat cannot be achieved, TEMA has pleaded.

WHAT IS KLI PROJECT…

  • In December 2020, the Union Cabinet gave its approval for laying Submarine Optical Fibre Cable Connectivity between Mainland (Kochi) and Lakshadweep Islands (KLI Project).
  • The Project will provide a direct communication link through a dedicated submarine Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) between Kochi and 11 Islands of Lakshadweep viz.
  • Those 11 islands of Lakshadweep are: Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Agati, Amini, Androth, Minicoy, Bangaram, Bitra, Chetlat, Kiltan & Kadmat.
  • The Project is funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund.
  • The project will vastly improve telecommunication facility in the Lakshadweep Islands by providing large bandwidth.
  • The project is targeted to be completed by May 2023.
  • Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) has been nominated as Project Execution Agency and Telecommunications Consultant India Ltd. (TCIL) as the Technical Consultant of the Project to assist Universal Service Obligation Fund, Department of Telecommunications.
  • The ownership of the asset under the project will rest with USOF, the funding agency, under DoT.
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