Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Jan 31, 2003
Industry & Economy - Disinvestment
Shourie seeks status report from BSNL, MTNL
THE NEW TEAM: The Minister for IT and Communications, Mr Arun Shourie, with the Minister of State, Mr S. Thirunavukkarasar, interacting with mediapersons after assuming office in the Capital on Thursday.
NEW DELHI, Jan. 30
GETTING down to business, a day after being sworn in as Communications Minister, Mr Arun Shourie, has sought a status report from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and the Telecom Commission by the weekend so as to identify the issues that need to be tackled on a priority basis.
Disclosing this to newspersons in his first press conference as Communications and IT Minister, he noted that his role would be to ``augment'' the industry and not to ``interfere'' in its working, indicating that he may not intervene in disputes among phone companies.
``We'll try to be an enabling Ministry. Our role should be to augment, not to interfere,'' he said.
On the proposed merger between BSNL and MTNL, he noted that more time is needed to study the issue in detail and he would be able to comment on it only after 15 days.
As regards the privatisation of MTNL, something that has been on the agenda of the Disinvestment Ministry, which he also heads, Mr Shourie refused to comment, although he did mention that it has always been difficult for the Government to manage mammoth organisations.
"I have requested them to provide figures, especially their shares in the incremental growth in the basic, cellular and long-distance market. Only after that can I be in a position to comment on the PSUs. I have also asked them to outline the problems and handicaps being faced by them."
As regards the various corporate interests that seek to influence decision making at Sanchar Bhavan, he pointed out that no company has ever influenced the Disinvestment Ministry. It will be the same in the Communications Ministry too.
In this context, he noted that the Government would honour all its commitments and would expect the private sector to do the same. Companies that default on commitments, like rural telephony would be penalised, he said.
He said the current growth in the telecom sector must continue. While there must be competition, no predatory pricing must be entertained. No restriction must be imposed on the march of technology. He said there was room for many players in the telecom services but cautioned that predatory practices would not be allowed under any circumstances.
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