| Gyanendra: Family 'burden'
New Delhi, March 27: Nepal's decision to prevent an Indian telecom joint venture from getting new subscribers appears to be aimed at helping a close relative of King Gyanendra to get a foothold in the local telecom market.
The Indo-Nepalese venture, United Telecom Limited, was allowed to resume services by Nepalese authorities almost two weeks ago, after nearly one and half months. But it came with stringent conditions. The company was not only asked to furnish a list of all its subscribers but also prevented from registering new ones.
On March 18, when the company was given the order to resume service, the Nepalese authorities asked United Limited to register its 30,000-odd subscribers and provide the list to the government. Though it has wireless equipment to cover the whole of Kathmandu, it has been prevented from providing this service to subscribers.
The telecom company, which provides WiLL services ' fixed phones with wireless service within a certain range ' has been instructed to tell subscribers not to take the equipment outside the premises where it has been installed. It has been made clear that the company will be held responsible for any misuse of the service.
Sources said the Nepalese move appears to be aimed at favouring a close relative of the king, who is to launch his own telecommunication services in the kingdom.
It is being said that the steps against the company ' not being allowed to register new subscribers and not providing cellphone facilities to its existing ones ' are a deliberate move that will remain in force for the next two months. It is a clear attempt at helping the new company to dominate the local market, observers said. The Indian venture was originally allowed to provide the services.
Nearly 80 per cent of the stakes of United Telecom are held by MTNL, VSNL and Tele Communications Consultants (India) Ltd. The remaining 20 per cent are held by Nepal Venture Private Ltd.
Nepal's high handedness has been a bone of contention between Kathmandu and Delhi. In the past months, Delhi had raised the issue a number of times with Kathmandu.