Indian tax-payers money spent on BlackBerry Torch handsets for I-T officials

The Income Tax department in India is spending close to 50 crores INR on telecommunications upgrade for the bureaucrats. BlackBerrys, broadband connections and fixed line connections part of the deal.

Officials in the Income Tax department of India will soon be having BlackBerry Torch phones courtesy a deal pegged close to Rs. 50 crores ($11 million). Known as Project Tarang, under the agreement the I-T department will be adding:

  • 51,000 mobile connections
  • 22,000 fixed line connections
  • 5,000 broadband connections
  • 8,000 3G data cards
  • 1,000 BlackBerry Torch handsets

BSNL has prepared a customized plan for the I-T department’s requirement and as reported, approximately Rs. 40 crore (~$8.5 million) will be paid as the annual fee to BSNL for the telecom services while Rs. 5 crore (~$1 million) for the hardware equipment.

The fixed line and broadband connections will be installed at the residences of the Indian Revenue Service officers. The mobile phones are for the commissioners and chief commissioners. The idea is to provide fast and secure connection (I wonder whether they got the memo about the Indian govt. vs BlackBerry issues.) Some details about the call plans:

  • All calls between the mobile and fixed line connection across the MTNL/BSNL networks will be free.
  • The mobile connections will have 400 minutes a month of free calls to other networks.
  • The fixed line connections will have free 300 call per month to other networks.
  • Unlimited free SMS messages across the BSNL/MTNL network.

There are two ways to look at the story and unfortunately due to my lack of faith in the bureaucrats I’ll pull out the “there are so many people living below the poverty line and they want spend crores on free broadband & BlackBerrys” card.