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July 16, 1999
Private telecom industry sends SOS to PresidentThe telecom industry has sought immediate intervention of President K R Narayanan "to save the nascent industry from disinformation by vested interests" who it claims are bent on scuttling the cabinet decision to allow existing private operators to migrate to the revenue sharing formula under New Telecom Policy 1999.
In an SOS to the President, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India and the Telecom Industry and Services Association charged that a disinformation campaign has been let loose by vested interests. They claims the campaign aims to deprive the government of the licence fees that they are committed to pay.
Somnath Chatterjee, in a separate communication to the prime minister has said integration of the existing cellular operators into the new telecom policy framework seems to be worth considering. ''Since there is considerable justification in the representations that are being made by existing cellular operators, the matter should be considered in an objective manner, consistent with national interest.''
The telecom operators, on their part, have reiterated their commitment to President Narayanan to pay their fees to the last paisa. The current moves to deny them the facility of migrating to the new policy regime would lead to bankruptcy among majority of operators, jeopardising about 75,000 jobs, making foreign investors wary of making commitments in India and deter the domestic investors in further expanding their operations because of the erosion of the role of the private sector.
The cabinet decision to allow existing operators to migrate to NTP 1999 was based on the attorney general's recommendation to that effect.
To stress further and clarify industry's view point, a six-member Assocham delegation led by Sandell met K C Pant, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and chairman of PM's Task Force on Infrastructure.
The delegation said the New Telecom Policy does not talk of payphones. DoT should allow licensing for payphone operators for bulk numbers as against individual licensing so far.
Availability of payphone for the common man is important because, even by 2007, 90 out of every 100 people in India would be without a telephone.
Local manufacturing of proper payphones cannot be done unless DoT's policy is changed.
It was further stated that the revenue sharing formula should be linked with ability to pay. However, the main problem remains to be the inability of the operators to achieve financial closures. With the announcement of revenue sharing in theory, this can be done now.
However, it depends on cooperation of the financial institutions, the ministry of finance and RBI to agree to set up terms and condition for lending and borrowing as for instance is applicable in the power sector.
The delegation, other than Sandell included Dilip Ghosh of Siemens, P K Chaudhary of Koshika Telecom and Rajiv Gupta of Modicorp.
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