Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Apr 24, 2002
Info-Tech - Telecommunications
DoT alarmed by phone surrenders
NEW DELHI, April 23
ALARMED at the growing number of telephone surrenders across the country - close to 20 lakh - during the past one year, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has ordered an enquiry to get at the root of the problem.
According to top DoT officials, although Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has been performing reasonably well in fulfilling its targets, there are a number of factors that have been contributing to this trend of surrender of telephone connections.
"During the year 2001-02, the total number of direct exchange lines (DEL) installed by BSNL at 71 lakh has surpassed the target of 60 lakh. However, on account of the surrender of telephone connections, the net achievement stands at only 51 lakhs,'' they noted.
They pointed out that there could be number of reasons for this. But the one factor that has been contributing to this the requirement of filing of I-T returns by telephone subscribers.
"The possession of a telephone connection has been included as one of the criterion for filing of I-T returns under the 1/6 scheme. Because of this scheme, subscribers not wanting to register with I-T authorities either do not apply for fresh phone connections or, discontinue their subscription.
Especially in rural areas, where agricultural income is outside the tax net, the people are surrendering their phone; as otherwise, they would have to file their returns.
"In fact, the Finance Ministry was made aware of this problem, and we requested it to exempt phone connections from the 1/6 scheme. However, that was not to be," they said.
The other reason that is contributing this trend is that the second phone is now seen as being redundant. Earlier, even if one phone was out of order people could fall back on the second phone. However, now the quality of service has improved and there is no need for a second phone, they said. The officials said that there is an increasing tendency for people to prefer a mobile phone as their second phone. Therefore, they are now surrendering their second phone and opting for a cellular connection.
"While these are the immediate reasons that come to mind based on field enquiries, we have now told BSNL to undertake a detailed study to pinpoint the actual reasons, and find remedies for this problem,'' they said.
The officials noted that on the whole the performance of BSNL has been quite satisfactory during 2001-02. Be it the total net switching capacity, DELs or VPT targets, the performance has surpassed the DoT's expectations despite being a bit short on targets, they said.
They said that the shortfall on targets is mainly because in a large number of telecom circles, the demand is mainly in urban areas while the major waiting list is in rural and remote areas. The company has been directed to give more emphasis on wireless connections (cellular and WLL) during this fiscal, rather than relying on wireline connections only.
"That is the only way that it can connect the rural and remote areas. In any case the private operators are not keen in fulfilling their rural commitments, and ultimately BSNL will have to do the job,'' they said.
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