The Cabinet approval for the new telecom policy, now renamed as ‘National Digital Communications Policy 2018’, is expected to propel India into the top 50 on a global index from as low as 134, in addition to bringing in a host of benefits in terms of investments and creating jobs. India is expected to reach at the position of 50th in the ICT rank in the next five years from current 134th, said Minister of communication Manoj Sinha said after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs cleared the new telecom policy.
India currently has the world’s second largest internet subscriber base, and since India’s last telecom policy in 2012, a lot has changed in digital communications space with the introduction of 5G, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had floated a draft policy on May 1 for public consultation on the goals outlined in the draft by the government to achieve by 2022.
All you need to know about the new telecom policy
The new policy seeks to attract a whopping $100 billion investments and create as many as 40 lakh jobs in the telecommunications sector by 2022. One of the key objectives of the policy is to focus on increasing high-speed broadband penetration by using modern technologies like 5G and optical fibres across the country at an affordable price through satellite to about 90% of population as well as provide at least 1 GBps data connectivity to all Gram Panchayats to enable wireless broadband services to inhabitants.
It also aims to rationalise levies that are put on telecommunications companies such as spectrum charges, in order to rejuvenate debt-laden sector, which is reeling under a debt of around Rs 7.8 lakh crore. Also, one of the goals of the policy include deploying 5 million public Wi-Fi Hotspots by 2020 and 10 million by 2022 through a National Broadband Mission. Under the policy, the government is also looking to implement a ‘Fibre First Initiative’ to take fibre to the home, to enterprises, apart from to key development institutions in tier I, II and III towns as well as to rural clusters.
Sweet relief for sugar industry
Meanwhile, the cabinet has also approved a Rs 4,500 crore package to sugar industry, which is the second financial assistance to bail out the industry in the past four months. The government had announced a Rs 8,500 crore package to the sugar industry, which included a soft loan of Rs 4,440 crore to million for creating ethanol capacity, with an interest subvention of Rs 1,332 crore. An assistance of Rs 5.50 per quintal of cane crushed, amounting to Rs 1,540 crore to mills, was also provided. Recently, the government also cleared a raise of over 25% in the price of ethanol produced directly from sugarcane juice for blending in petrol.
Key highlights of the sugar package
The proposal was floated by the food ministry to address the issue of surplus domestic stock of sugar and also to help mill owners in clearing huge cane arrears for around Rs 13,000 crore. It included recommendations to offset cost of sugarcane to sugar mills by increasing the production assistance to cane growers at Rs 13.88 per quintal for the 2018-19 marketing year from Rs 5.50 per quintal for this year, in order to deal with the excess sugar production.
The assistance to be provided will be directly credited into sugarcane farmers’ accounts on behalf of mill owners. The ministry had also recommended to help mills to export 5 million tonnes of sugar under the Minimum Indicative Export Quota (MIEQ) during 2018-19 by compensating expenditures on internal transport, handling, freight and other charges.
The proposals also included a transport subsidy of Rs 1,000 per tonne for the mills located within 100 km from ports, while Rs 2,500 per tonne for mill located beyond 100 kilometer from the port in coastal states and Rs 3,000 tonnes per tonne for mill located in other than coastal states.