Establishing 'broadband highways' a focus area: Ravi Shankar Prasad

PTI Posted online: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 0000 hrs
New Delhi : The newly appointed telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has identified creating broadband 'highways' along with improving service quality and restoring investor confidence among his main focus areas.

"If Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was known for national highway, Shri Narendra Modi's government should be known for broadband highways.I have directed department to work on more details of this project. This is area of big growth. My full effort will be to take this ahead," Prasad told reporters while taking his charge.

The UPA regime had approved Rs 20,000 crore for providing broadband services across all 2.5 lakh panchayats. The project completion date was deferred many times from first being 2012 to 2013 and now it is September 2015.

Prasad said the telecom department has been in the news for many wrong reasons in the past and his priority would be to set things right.

"My focus area as minister of this department would be to improve quality of service for sake of consumers interest and secondly to restore investors' confidence," he said.

The earlier government had raised the issue of courts passing orders that hamper policy making. On this issue, Prasad said "I don't agree with that. If there will be irregularity, if there will be corruption, judiciary will intervene.

"Therefore, first and foremost job is that decision making process must be free from irregularities or suspicion of taint."

The Minister has asked the DoT to work towards easing "softer" regulations to generate confidence among investors.

Prasad was part of Joint Parliamentary Committee that probed into 2G spectrum allocation case of 2008 under then telecom minister A Raja.

BJP leaders, including Prasad, has objected to JPC findings and had termed 2G spectrum allocation "as one of the biggest scams of Independent India".

Prasad said he as a member of JPC and as a Minister of telecom are two different identities.

"I am aware of issues, I have been member of the JPC. I have studied issues in some detail. Now this is occasion to work upon it. Give me sometime," he said.

The minister said that various events under previous regime have dented investors' confidence.

"We need to restore that. This will be my first effort. In telecom industry 100 per cent FDI is allowed. Therefore, the 100 per cent FDI must be quickened, must be helped to come in India under transparent regime which is assured...this shall be my endeavour," Prasad said.

So far, British major Vodafone has raised its stake to 100 per cent in Vodafone India by buying equity of its Indian partners for about Rs 10,141 crore. Russian conglomerate Sistema controlled Sistema Shyam Teleservices has applied for raising foreign stake in the company.

"Kind of stakes that this department has may have some elements of corporate rivalry, I will not deny it. I will have to look at it. As a minister I have to ensure growth,"he said.

The minister listened to a presentation of about two hours from the Department of Telecom officials and a one-and-a-half-hour presentation at Department of Electronics and Information Technology.

"There is lot of scope of growth, employment creation in electronics manufacturing. There should be ease of doing business. Indian manufacturers should get incentives because electronics manufacturing is highly competitive globally. Electronics manufacturing is going to be a great area of my concerns and interests both," he said.

The new telecom minister agreed with most of the priority focus area suggested by the Department of Telecom including strengthening mobile service in the likes of North East, extremist infested areas, and rural regions, among others.

At present, over 56,000 villages are estimated to have no mobile connectivity.