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Friday 24 January 2020

Telecom stress: Prasad to try revive BSNL, MTNL

The government has set up a panel headed by telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan to rationalise this segment of the market

New Delhi: Addressing financial stress in the telecom sector after the upcoming spectrum auction, the revival of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) with “least pressure” on the government, and ensuring “fair competition” will be priority for Telecom and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. This is besides establishing India as the manufacturing and export hub of electronics.

The sector has been going through stress for a long time, the minister said, adding that he would meet top telecom companies very soon.

The Union government has set up a panel headed by Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan to look at rationalisation and remove ambiguities in ease of doing business. The panel will revisit spectrum usage charges and the report is expected in two weeks.

If the issues require legal clarity, the matter will go to the Solicitor General of India. Attorney General KK Venugopal has appeared for telecom companies in the past.

On MTNL and BSNL, Prasad said: “We will make a focused attempt on the revival of BSNL and MTNL and will move a Cabinet note on that very soon. The details are being worked out.” He listed three reasons for making these initiatives — they (BSNL and MTNL) are national assets, they operate in strategic areas like home and defence, and in the case of cyclone, flood, or earthquake they are in the forefront of giving free services.

However, the minister asked the employees of the two debt-laden companies to brace themselves for competition. “I am urging the employees of BSNL and MTNL to be cooperative and professional, and learn to live in today’s competitive world. Our government supports competition because it has brought in the cheapest mobile rates and cheapest data in the world.

Therefore, while acknowledging some disruption, we need to acknowledge the benefits that have happened due to competition,” he added.

Prasad said, “India has made a mark in electronic manufacturing… I want India to become the export house of electronic manufacturing… that is something I want to follow in Narendra Modi government II.”

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