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The ‘CANI’ Project for Andamans

Sunday, Aug 02, 2020 13:30 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Aug 02, 2020 07:47 [IST]

The ‘CANI’ Project for Andamans

S. BALAKRISHNAN
The Andaman & Nicobar Islanders' dream of high-speed broadband connectivity at this stage is best described by the phrase “many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip”. I empathize with the islanders. The laying of the submarine optic fibre cable (OFC) from Chennai to Andaman-Nicobar Islands (CANI Project) that at last began on 10th January of this year has now reached the islands but not the islanders. It is so near and yet so far. Official apathy!
As one who lived in Port Blair from 1978 to 1980 when the talk of submarine cable scheme was first heard (if my memory doesn’t fail me), I appreciate the patience of the islanders. It is now 42 long years; from joining my service there, I have even retired four years back but this scheme is yet to reach the door of the islanders. I am sure even a snail would have covered the sea floor distance of 1190 km from Chennai to Port Blair in these 42 years. Well, I am not very sure about the snail as I am not a zoologist or an expert on snails.
Let me regale you by recalling the telecom situation that prevailed 40 years ago in the Islands. The telephone was working almost perfectly but getting a trunk call through to Calcutta (where our regional office is located) was almost impossible. Remember, no STD facility then. Sometimes it fructified only the next day and we were much thankful. About the teleprinter service, the less said the better. It sat there like a dead showpiece. Once in a blue moon it would spring to life and die as quickly. The telegraph service was working fine, though. In the present changed telecom scenario, teleprinter and telegraph are things of the past, museum pieces. Even my computer underscores the word teleprinter with a red line as it is not in its dictionary!
When I visited the Andamans 30 years later in 2009, mobile connectivity seemed to be good. But then it was just 2G network. As I mention 2G, I can’t help remembering the infamous 2G spectrum scandal allegedly involving the then union minister for telecom, A. Raja. The CAG presumed a notional loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore. People wondered how many cyphers for this 1.76 lakh crore! As usual, however, the case could not be established and Raja walked off like a real Raja! Well, coming back to our 2009 visit, my wife even made a call from atop Mt. Harriet (highest peak in South Andaman) to Chennai to her mother to declare as if she had ascended Mt. Everest itself. That was Airtel, not BSNL though. Internet could not be accessed and credit/debit cards could not also be used. Hence we were forced to borrow some amount from our friend.
But when my daughter visited ten years later in 2019 with 4G mobile with two sim cards (BSNL & Airtel), it seemed the situation had further deteriorated. Alas! While in Port Blair itself the reach was intermittent, as she moved to Havelock Island, Long Island, Rangat and Diglipur, we almost lost touch with her. At the most we could communicate only through SMS that was not instant either. She said the Diglipur residents staged bandh on the day of her visit protesting against the poor telecom connectivity.  I could very well imagine the pathetic telecom scenario in Nicobar Islands and in particular in Great Nicobar Island, the southernmost territory of our country.
It need not be stressed that for a far off and scattered territory like the A&N Islands communication and transport are top most priorities. I only hope that the present situation of 'got it in hand but not in the mouth' (in Tamil it is precisely said as – kaikku etnathu vaaikku ettavillai) changes soon and the Islanders enjoy & benefit from the canny(?) CANI submarine OFC broadband services.   The cables are of four-fibre pairs with the capacity to transfer 6.4 tera-bytes of data per second by each fibre-pair. At the initial stage of commissioning of the project itself the islanders can get a data speed of 400-gigabytes per second.

krishnanbala2004@yahoo.co.in / 9840917608 Whatsapp

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
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  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
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