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Mahajan reads the Riot Act to VSNL

New Delhi, Sept. 6: Communications minister Pramod Mahajan today warned Videsh Sanchar Nigam (VSNL) that BSNL and MTNL would pick private operators for international calls if it did not forge a deal soon.

Mahajan also sounded cellular operators that their days of monopoly were numbered since the government was thinking of introducing unlimited entry in circles.

The threat to VSNL was lobbed at a function that honoured the minister with the Telecom Man of the Year Award' from PTC India.

BSNL and MTNL have to shoulder social obligations, and work like a commercial organisation, which makes it necessary for them to demand a better rate, he said.

“I fully support the view that MTNL and BSNL should not be allowed to act like big brothers. At the same time, they can’t allow younger brothers (read private operators) to capture the market. After all, both public sector units are competitors,” said Mahajan.

For the telecom revolution to spread further, the minister said for services to become accessible and customer-oriented, it was important to hasten conflict resolution of issues. The current environment has created natural anomalies within the system, and their removal would require agencies that are quicker in resolving problems than the normal judicial forums.

“In the current scenario, our experience has shown that no party was willing to accept a lower court’s decision on any verdict. Hence, the issue of faster resolution of problems have remained unaddressed,” he added.

Mahajan said the current market economy structure had its limitations, and that a 100 per cent market economy orientation was a misnomer. “Within the system, it is vital to locate the social obligation parameters and this was equally true for the telecom sector.”

The government had, over the years, seen operators reluctant to perform their social obligations in regions where business was not a profitable proposition. He called on operators to fulfil contractual social obligations, like installing village phones.

Mahajan emphasised that opening up of the telecom sector had given rise to problems due to changing technologies, increasing competition, changing laws and the drive towards increasing profit margins.

On the issue of technological changes in telecom, Mahajan said changes in technology had to be balanced with other nodal points within the telecom sector.

“Technological changes had to be balanced with the letter and spirit of laws governing the telecom structure,” he said. The minister said everything was market driven in these times. “The bottomline is that there was no loyal customer for any player,” said Mahajan.

Earlier, Trai chairman J. S. Verma highlighted the issues that impinge on the sector and spoke of the need to strengthen areas necessary to sustain the growth rates that have been achieved in the sector over the years.

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