The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New Sanchar Bhawan head talks tough

New Delhi, Jan 30: Arun Shourie, the new communications and information technology minister, today threatened penal action against the telecom companies that fail to fulfil their licence commitments and promised to end subsidies in the public sector telephony companies.

Shourie did not attend his office at Sanchar Bhawan today and is likely to assume office on Monday. He had an extensive meeting with the senior officials of the department of communications, post, and information technology.

The officials apprised the minister of the important thrust areas of the respective departments and briefed him on the policy initiatives undertaken recently.

On the information technology front, the minister said that though India had achieved considerable success in the software sector, the priority now would be to repeat similar success in the hardware sector. The minister also asked the officials of the three departments — communications, IT and post — to prepare position papers on key issues concerning their respective departments.

While talking to reporters later, Shourie said telecom operators would have to desist from predatory pricing and would not be allowed to block induction of technology to stymie growth in the telecom sector.

The minister said he wanted competition in the telecom sector but added intense rivalries must not hurt corporate balance sheets.

Refusing to be drawn into the contentious debate over the latest tariffs announced by the telecom regulator — an issue he will have to address when Parliament reconvenes for the budget session — Shourie said, “We Indians should learn to pay for each and every service we get. If we do not learn to pay, then we cannot demand efficient services. If the companies provide efficient service without realising the actual cost, then they will go bankrupt.”

“All services should carry an economic price. We cannot kill the telecom sector that has seen a strong growth in the last few years. The era of cross subsidies in India has passed,” Shourie said.

Shourie said the private operators should fulfill commitments made while procuring licences both cellular and basic telephony. He said that the government was willing to play the role of a facilitator and was committed to bringing about a transparent mechanism.

“There should be transparency both at the level of formulation and implementation of policy involving the three departments and also in every transaction in the departments or units reporting to these departments,” Shourie said.

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