The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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If gas worked, so will CAS

New Delhi, July 3: Learning from an experience with gas, the Union information and broadcasting ministry is going ahead with CAS.

The ministry is committed to the July 15 deadline for introducing the conditional access system (CAS) with the full knowledge that it will spell chaos.

Calcutta and Chennai are the cities where the ministry has still not been able to gauge the possible level of disruption. The ministry is despatching Rakesh Mohan, joint secretary, to the cities tomorrow to make an assessment.

Ministry officials draw a parallel with implementation of the Supreme Court order making compressed natural gas (CNG) a must for public transport vehicles in Delhi last year.

Buses, taxis and auto rickshaws were asked to switch to gas though there weren’t enough stations selling the fuel. There was chaos for weeks. “But look at it a year from then. The air in Delhi has improved. And there is much less hullabaloo over CNG,” an I&B ministry official said.

Broadcasters have told the government enough set-top boxes are not available for viewers to access channels under CAS and their efforts so far have been aimed at fomenting demand for the boxes. But demand is not picking up with viewers still wary of this CAS animal.

In Calcutta, for instance, it is possible the government will go for an area-wise rollout, dividing the city into three zones — south, central and north. Of Calcutta’s estimated 12 lakh cable television subscribers, the multi-system operator RPG Netcom has the widest reach of nine lakh. Its set-top boxes will be supplied by Catvision, which, sources say, is committed to produce one lakh pieces. By July 15, it expects to have 60,000 boxes.

Despite this huge demand-supply gap, RPG Netcom boss Dilip Sen said in Calcutta: “All I can say is that we will implement CAS on July 15.”

How' asks Kirit Somaiya, a BJP MP who has filed a PIL making a case for full-scale implementation of CAS. “Where is the demand' Hardly 5,000 of Mumbai’s 22 lakh viewers have placed a demand for set-top boxes. What shortage when there isn’t even a demand'”

Never mind, officials insist. “Look at what happened with CNG in Delhi. They’ll all fall in line.” Gas yesterday, CAS tomorrow.

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