Licence To Deliver, Minister Tells Telecom Players

New Delhi: | Updated: Jan 31 2003, 05:30am hrs
In what comes across as a strong message for telecom operators, the new minister for communications and IT Arun Shourie has called for severe penalties for nonfulfillment of commitments made by telecom players.

Any non-fulfilment of commitment should attract severe penalties, Mr Shourie told the media, adding that both the cellular and basic operators should hold on to their commitments made while procuring licences.

He was referring to the licence fee commitments made by the private cellular operators and later on getting migration package to revenue share regime and also the rural telephony commitments made by the basic telecom players.

Without commenting on the issue of merger and disinvestment of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanager Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), the minister added, Our experience has shown that we are not able to manage big organisations. He has asked heads of various public sector units to give him notes by Sunday evening listing out the important issues and possible solutions.

On privatisation of MTNL and BSNL, he said that he has asked the two organisations to provide figures as to what share they have been able to grab in terms of incremental business to see if the enterprises are competent.

Mr Shourie also said that the state should play an enabling role for the telecom industry. Growth of the telecom sector must continue with many players without any predatory practices.

The state as an enabler should stay out of the way of the way of functioning of the industry. The minister declined to comment on Telecom Regulatory Authority of Indias (Trai) interconnection usage charges (IUC) regulation. He added, All services should carry their economic prices and there should be no cross subsidisation. Indians should demand efficient services and pay for them or we will be bankrupting the service providers and prevent the growth of the sector. The minister also declined to comment on the recent tariff wars in the telecom sector.

Mr Shourie was in favour of promoting domestic hardware industry and hardware exports. He will request the finance minister to keep hardware as a major focus in the coming budget, he said. Without the support of hardware, the growth of software industry will also be in danger in next 4-5 years, said the minister.

The hardware industry body, Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (mait) has welcomed the new minister. We are indeed very happy that Mr Shourie is our new Minister. We are confident that given his close association with complex issues such as disinvestment, he would be able to appreciate and comprehend the complexities of the hardware sector. Procedural reforms are the need of the hour to bring back hardware on track, Mait executive director Vinnie Mehta said.

Nasscom has also welcomed Mr Shouries appointment. The Indian IT Industry will benefit from Mr Shouries vast experience in the government and his wealth of knowledge as an economist with the World Bank. We are confident that under his leadership, the Indian IT industry will enhance its position as a technology provider for the global market, Nasscom said in a statement.