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MCM-GSP/3-00/2J

֮ ֻ ӛ (֟) : , ָָ ֌־ , ֤ פ , ִ ױָ ֛ ׾ֻ ߴ ָ֬ ָ 66,882 ֓פ ׾ֻ , ױָ ִ ֮ ָ և כ 14,183, כ 52,639 000 31-12-2005 17,182, ֋ -׸خ ׾ֻ 49,640, ãן ֟և ײֻ ֵ ִ 1.7 ןֿ֟ ר , 1.86 ןֿ֟ և ӣָ ן , ֻ ן ִ , ӟָ ֜ , ָ ׮׿֟ ָָ ֻ օ ׾֬ ֵ ֲ , ָ֬ ֲ ֮ ׻֋ ָ֬ ֲ ӿ֮ ׾֬ ֋ ֟ ִ֣Ԯ , ֳ ֮֮ߵ ֤õ ִ֣Ԯ , ãן , Ӿ ָ ֵ֟ , , ִ ӛ֮ ׮ָ , ִ ׸ , ײָ , ԙ , , ӕֲ, ״ֻ֛֮, 00 Ù, 00 Ù Ù ֻ ֲ 66,882 ֛ , ٻִֵ פ ֵ ׻֋ , ו ãן , ױָ פ ֵ ִ ֮ ӟ ָ ֮ և , ֟և և ׾ֵ ß , ß-ãן , ָָ ؙ ׻Ù , ؙ ׻Ù ׮ßָ ָ ִ ֋ ָ֬ ֲ 000 ֵ ֵ ִ ãן ָ ו֮֟ 000 ã֮֯ ֵ , ָ 000 ִ 31-12-2005 ױָ ֣ ִ ָ֜ ߅ ևӛ ؙ ׻Ù , և 000 16,62,953 ϟ , Ӿ ֟ , ߻ ֟ ׿ֵ֟ և , 000 , և ߱ ָ ָ֮ ָ֮ ָ ֮ Ӥ ָ ֵ, ׸ֵ ֵ, ָ և  ߱ ֻ ֋ , ߱ ׾ֳ ߟָ ӲӬ , ֮֟ ָ꯿֮ ߓ ָ֬ ߓ ֮ և ָ֬ ִ֯ , ߱ כ֙ ؙ ׻Ù ߓ ׬ָ וֻ ßָ , ֳꌟֆ ֟ ֟ ֟ߕ ָ ֜ , ׸ֵ ֜ , և  ֜ ֯ ֜ ؙ ׻Ù ׮ֲָ֙ ִ ײ ָ꯿֮ ו ָ ָָ ֮ ߙ ؙ ׻Ù ֟

, ָ ִֻ ؙ ׻Ù , 31-12-2005 , ָָ և , ֵָ ꅠ ָ֬ ֲ , ֲ ֯ ӿ֮ ָ ֮ և ؙ ׻Ù 11,05,096 ָ , , ִ ָ ӟ  , ãן ִ֯ օ ֪ׯ ӡ ־֮ , ֕י (2k ָ ֿ:)

SC/3.05/2K

֮ ֻ ӛ (֟) : ֤ ־ֲ , ӡ ־֮ ָ ӡ ־֮ ֻ ֯ ֻ֟ ? ֈ ־ֲ ֯ , ֟ ֤ ן ֋߅ ־ֲ ֯ ֛ ןָ , ֤ ֯ ן׸ ֻ ֤ ֟ ֮ օ ־ֻ , ־ֻ ֲ ֮֟ ן ״י , ןֲ֨ , ׻֋ ָߵ ֮֟ ֙ ִ֕־֤ ֙ ֌Ծ֤ ׮Ù ֙ , ֵ ֌ ָ ֙ ףֵ ֵ ֌ , ֲ ֿ ֲ ו և ׮ֵ , ן ֯ ֻ ֻ , ֲֻ օ ׬׮ִֵ ֯ ׸ ו֋, ֮ ֮ ו֋, ֯ ֻ ֋, ֯ ִ , ־ã , Ͽ֮ , ß օ ֮֯ ß פ, ֻ ׻֋ , ֮֟ ֻ ָ ߋ֋֋, ֙ߋ֋ ֻ , ֳ ִ֋ ֯ ٙױ ״ֻօ , ָ ײָ ӡ , ֕ ӡ , ײָ ãן ֮ - ָ ױ פ - 31.10.2005 87,684 ߱ ꌿ י ׻Ù 31.01.2006 ؙ ׻Ù ֜ 94,745 ֵ߅ ָ ؙ ׻Ù ֜ , ֙ , 7,100 ߲ ֜ ֵ߅ ָָ ׮ָ֯֙ ִ ָָ , פ , ֮֮ߵ ӡ ֵ֮ ֲ ׮ָ֯֙ ֻ ׻֋ ֮֮ߵ ӡ ײֻ ִ֣Ԯ , ֯ Ͽ , ֯ þ֟ , ָ , ֳ ״ֻ֮ ӟ ֟ ֮ ֟ ִ֯ ߋ֋֋ և , ָ ֲ ֜ ֟ - ָ Ϥ ֜ ֵ - ߱ ꌿ֮ , Ӿ ֟ , ֲ ָ ֜ ֜ ãן , և ֟֟ ֮ Ӿ ֋, ־ ֋ ֯ וֻ Ͽ֮ ӯ ו֋ ׸ֵ ֵ , ָ ֵ - ֲ - ֻ ָ ײָ ֜ ֵ - և , ֲ ָ ֵ, ׸ֵ ֵ, Ӿ , ָ ֜ ߋ֋֋ , ꌿ֮ ֟ , ֲ ֓֟ , ׻֋ և ׮ֵ ֯ , ֟ , Ӿ ֋, և ׮ֵ ָ ָ , ׻֋ ϵ ӟ ֟ , ִ֟ ֲ ֟ ߅ ߱ և̸ ׻֋, ׮֕ ֟ ..(־֮֬)..

ϟ֯ : ֟ ӟ ו֋

ֲ ָ, ֳ ךև ,

ָ ִ ֋

֮ ֻ ӛ : , ִ֣Ԯ ִ֟ ӡ ־֮ , ֮ , ֟ ִ , ߱ և̸ ׻֋ ִ פ, ָ ߮ , ߮ ߮ , ߮ ָ ߱ և̸ ֵԻֵ כ ֛ ֯ ׮ß׸ ו֋ :-: ߮ ֮֯ , Ͽ, ָ ָ ָ ֵ ? ֯ ӡ , ֯ ֋ ָ, ӓ ״ֻ , ֮ פ , և ߮ 拻֋ , ו֮֟ פ ߱ և̸ , 拻֋ ֮ ֯ ׬ָ ֟ ֟ ׻֋ ײֻ ִ֣Ԯ ִ֟ ֮֮ߵ ֤õ ֟ , ׻֋ ָ ӡ ֿ ֮ - ֮־֤ (ִ֯) (2 ָ ֿ:)

-SK/YSR/3.10/2L

SHRIMATI N.P. DURGA (ANDHRA PRADESH): Sir, I thank you for allowing me to speak on this piece of legislation. Though I am not against the basic content of the proposed legislation per se, I have strong reservation about the way in which this has been brought before this House for its consideration. I oppose the Ordinance route through which the Government decided to bring this before this House. Sir, the Statement made by the hon. Minister explaining the reasons for promulgating an Ordinance is neither convincing nor justifiable nor satisfactory. We all know that the Indian Telegraph Bill was introduced on 19th May 2006 and the same was referred to the Standing Committee on IT. In the meanwhile, on 30th October 2006, an Ordinance was promulgated. The reason given is, "The Department of Telecommunication was of the opinion that the promulgation of an Ordinance would be necessary because waiting for process of the Bill, already before the Parliament, would delay the launching of the scheme by several months." It amuses me. The reason behind my amusement is that the Ordinance was promulgated on 30th October 2006, and the Winter Session of Parliament was commenced on 22nd November 2006. So, you have had hardly three weeks in between the promulgation of Ordinance and the commencement of the Session of Parliament. On what basis the Ministry has said that it would have delayed the entire process of utilising the Universal Services Obligation Fund by several months? What is the rationale behind it? I am sorry to say that the Minister has misled the House through his statement under Rule 66(2) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Rajya Sabha by giving misinformation. Now, Sir, we have no other way but to pass this Bill. We all know that an Ordinance is a committed legislation. We are not in a position to make amendments because the Executive has already committed certain points through Ordinance, and they will have to be passed, as they are, without any substantive amendments.

Sir, no doubt, the objective of the Bill is laudable. The aim is to create sharable infrastructure in rural, remote, and inaccessible areas, and to support the telecom service providers to use this infrastructure for provision of mobile services. In continuation of this, I wish to know from the hon. Minister that there was a proposal earlier to develop passive infrastructure and the same can be used by the groups of mobile service providers. What happened to that proposal?

Sir, the next point I wish to make is that the new Telecom Policy of 1999 envisaged achieving 'Telephone-on-Demand' in the rural areas by the year 2002. Now, we are in 2006. It is already seven years. Leave alone giving telephone-on-demand, the Department has failed to contain lakhs of landlines of the BSNL being surrendered by people, including people in the rural areas. How the Minister is sure of improving the rural teledensity after the passage of this Bill? I would also like to know how the Fund would be utilised and whether we will be able to achieve the target of 4 per cent by 2010 from the present teledensity of 1.86 as of July, 2006.

Sir, the other point I wish to make is about the amendment. The Bill proposed to delete the word 'basic' from the parent Act under Clause 1A of Section 3. There were extensive deliberations in the Standing Committee. Even the Department of Legal Affairs deposed before the Standing Committee on IT and gave its evidence. The Minister is saying that the Department of Legal Affairs is insisting on deleting the word 'basic' from sub-Section 1A of Section 3 of the Act. But the Standing Committee, which deliberated extensively on this very word 'basic' has given its recommendation that there is no need to delete the word 'basic.' I had gone through the Act. Nowhere the word 'basic' has been defined either in the Act that is proposed to be amended or the Rules framed thereunder. Here the word 'basic' gives a generic meaning. Nowhere in the Act it has been defined that the word 'basic' means landline. The word is not giving any restrictive meaning as has been claimed by the Department of Legal Affairs. It was only since 1994-95 that we have started using the word 'basic' for landline and 'cellular' for mobile services. The USO Fund even otherwise has been extended to the Fixed and Wireless Telephony -- limited mobile. I agree that it could not be used to cover the 'full mobile' services. But the WLL too works on the principle of wireless, though it serves only in a limited radius. (Contd. by VKK/2M)

-YSR/VKK/2m/3.15

SHRIMATI N.P. DURGA (CONTD): So, considering all this, the SC recommended in its 34th Report that there is no need to delete the word 'basic' from the Act. Now, how the Department of Legal Affairs has recommended deleting this word? So, I would like to know from the hon. Minister what was the view expressed by the Department of Legal Affairs while making its presentation before the Committee. Whether there is any contradiction between the two -- its submission before the Standing Committee and the recommendation given to the Ministry. If yes, the details and reasons may be explained.

It is good that with the help of USO Fund, the Government is trying to achieve the teledensity. But, I wish to know how the Government is planning to set up twenty thousand base stations in rural areas to cover all the villages. Whether any assistance would be given from the USO Fund to telephone companies, or, are they going to utilize the passive infrastructure? I would like to know about this from the hon. Minister.

Finally, Sir, I would only say that there is a need to re-look at the traditional policies and a time has come that our policies of providing telecom to villages are looked as a Universal Service Opportunity rather than a Universal Service Obligation. Thank you, Sir. (Ends)

SHRI R. SHUNMUGASUNDARAM (TAMIL NADU): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir. I welcome this Bill and I congratulate the hon. Minister for bringing this amendment. Sir, the inability in using the Universal Service Obligation Fund for the landline telephones and the wireless fixed line telephones was the reason for bringing this particular amendment. The urgency is understandable because there should not be even a single day's loss for providing or extending the facilities to the rural areas and the remote villages in this country.

Sir, we have seen a phenomenal growth in this particular sector. Sir, now, it is understood that about 180 million mobile phone users, including about 100 million GSM users are in this country. India is now reported to be the third largest in the world in usage of cellular phones after, of course, China and Russia. China is reported to have about 400 million and Russia is reported to have 252 million and now, India has reached 100-million mark in GSM. Of course, population-wise, the difference between India and China is not that much, but the usage of cellular phone wise, they are four times ahead of us. Therefore, the concentration, as advised, should be on the rural sector and it should be extended to villages and that is what is being done.

Sir, a recent press report, of course, by one of the officials of the Department says that there is a phenomenal growth in the C-circle area, particularly Bihar and Assam have reported growth in usage of cellular phones and GSM phones. Sir, we have seen growth in this sector only recently. Of course, about three years back, there were Village Public Telephones, VPTs. There was 100 per cent VPTs in Tamil Nadu. Some States have achieved 100 per cent mark in the Village Public Telephones, but certain other States could not achieve 100 per cent mark in VPTs. Sir, after the UPA Government took office, we have seen a phenomenal growth both in the landline and the cellular phones. It is because of the one-rupee scheme as announced by the hon. Minister. Sir, now, people from Kanyakumari can call their relatives somewhere in North for just Re.1. This has really contributed to the growth of the industry. Sir, there is a saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Sir, in the recent elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly, when the hon. Minister was touring, I had an occasion to accompany him for a day. (Contd. by MKS/2n)

MKS/LT/3.20/2N

SHRI R. SHUNMUGASUNDARAM (CONTD.): And I saw the response to the hon. Minister. That was the response from the people to the one-rupee scheme. I am happy that I had requested him to make a separate tour after assessing his popularity. I now request the hon. Minister to go a step forward and make an announcement for bringing in the third-generation facilities in this country. Bring in car phones and CDMA phones in the public transport like trains, metro trains etc.

Sir, I have come across a problem with the cellular phones, and that is, in installing towers. In villages, and even in certain cities, the local bodies and the Municipal Corporations are taxing these towers. In certain areas, these towers are taxed under 'house tax'. They are considered as 'buildings' and are taxed under 'house tax'. Sir, this is levied apart from the licence fee, whatever it is, that the cellular companies are paying. And this house tax charged by the local bodies will definitely deter the cellular companies from expanding and establishing more and more towers. So, this is an area on which the Minister should also concentrate. He should request all the local bodies and the Municipal Corporations not to separately tax these towers.

Sir, with these words, I welcome this Bill and thank the hon. Minister. (Ends)

SHRI B.J. PANDA (ORISSA): Sir, I support this Bill, but with some unease and a plenty of concerns, which I will take up.

Sir, the basic purpose for a Universal Service Obligation Fund is to provide incentives to telecom operators to set up operations in those areas which are not lucrative enough. It is as simple as that. But you have heard, Sir, all my colleagues mentioning repeatedly, many of them, about how the telecom growth that has happened in India is lopsided. We have got far more benefits and far more growth in urban areas, and commensurately much less in rural areas. And that was the fundamental purpose of the USO Fund, to provide that encouragement, that incentive, to make otherwise border line operations financially viable, and, there, we have not done so well. But I do not want to just criticise the hon. Minister because some good things have happened, and I would like to take a balanced approach and point out.

Sir, you have heard about the tele-density figures which so many of my colleagues have talked about. But let me quote some other statistics. If the fundamental purpose of the USO Fund is to provide funding to companies, both PSUs and private sector, to build networks in rural areas, what is the result of that? Today, we are talking about building mobile networks in rural areas with this encouragement. But the original purpose of the USO Fund was to actually build fixed line telephones, landline telephones. I will come to the rationale for that, but let us first take a look at the landline telephone situation today. All these private sector companies which have come in have barely made a drop-in-the-ocean investment in landline. The landline investment has been left to the PSUs, particularly the BSNL, which has been making landline investment. And, here, Sir, let me quote you the statistics. These are from the BSNL's own website,: their own capital expenditure for networks. The trend for the last six-seven years, let me read out here. In 2000-01, it was almost Rs.16,000 crores; in 2001-02, it went up to Rs.17,000 crores; in 2002-03 - Rs.12,000 crores; in 2003-04 - Rs.6,500 crores; in 2004-05 - Rs.7,500 crores, and in 2005-06 - Rs.6,800 crores. It has come down to one-third of what was spending. Now, the USO Fund which has been collected should have gone towards not just BSNL but anybody who was willing to build networks in rural areas, and, primarily, fixed line networks. Only today, we are considering enabling the Fund to go to mobile networks. But in respect of fixed line networks, as you can see, the investment level has kept dropping. And we should not criticise the BSNL because BSNL at least has been investing. The private sector players have not invested. (Contd. by 2O)

TMV-2O/3.25

SHRI B. J. PANDA (CONTD.): Therefore, there is not that competition in the fixed line sphere which you today have in the mobile sphere. It has caused the mobile rates to drop dramatically. Consequently, the rates of land line telephone usage have not come down because there is no competition as the private sector players have not invested in it. The USO Fund should have provided more money to encourage the BSNL to spend more, and it should have also encouraged the private players to, at least, get their feet into this business to make it attractive. If you look at the USO Fund itself, these are the figures. In the last five years--these are the approximate figures which I have taken from the Ministry's own website--the total collection of the USO Fund is approximately Rs.13,000 crores. This includes the estimated fund for this year, 2006-07. The total allocation, including the estimated allocation for this year, is only about Rs.5,000 crores. So, a little more than one-third of what has been collected has actually been spent. But, as I have said earlier, I will take a balanced approach. I will not just criticise for the sake of criticising. There is some good news and the good news is that until the year 2005-06, going back to the previous four years, whatever has been allocated has been fully utilised, according to the website of the Ministry, and I compliment the Minister for that. What I would urge you to do is that there are large funds which are still waiting. I support the idea that we should now encourage this Fund even to go into the mobile for the rural areas. But that should not be the sole objective. Let me point out why it should not be our sole objective. Some Members, some of my colleagues, have pointed out that the TRAI has not supported this move to provide USO funding for mobile. That is not correct. The TRAI has supported it. We must, in that case, consider that it has been done on the basis of assessing the pros and cons and, therefore, I also support it. But all the TRAI recommendations are not being implemented by the Government. For example, the TRAI has made a lot of recommendations to encourage fixed line investments which are gathering dust in the Ministry. I want the hon. Minister to take up this matter in his reply as to why fixed line investments are not being encouraged. Why should we invest in fixed line? There may be a thinking that mobile is the wave of the future and why not just encourage mobile only. As I said, I am not against encouraging mobile. But the fundamental purpose of the Fund was to encourage fixed line and that should not be discarded. There are very good reasons why it should not be discarded. If we put all our investments and all the encouragement for investment into one basket, it is like putting all the eggs into one basket. Let us not fool ourselves that only mobile will prevail in the future. For many decades to come, there are very significant benefits to come from landline networks where investments are not being made in our country for the last so many years. We need to encourage that investment. Let me point out and let me bring to the Minister's attention, if you look at the investment patterns of the developing countries like the US, Europe and Japan, you will find that there has been a resurgence in the investment in fixed line networks. New network technologies, which are very fibre rich, which include a lot of fibre in the network, are today getting billions of dollars worth investment. Very soon we are going to see that we are lagging far behind the other countries because our fixed line networks are not simply getting investment. Once again, I repeat that I totally support the idea that we must encourage all forms of investment, particularly, in the rural areas. Mobile has become cheaper today and our common Indian can afford a mobile. So, we must encourage mobile. But by not investing enough, by not investing adequately in fixed line network, we are missing out and, as I just pointed out, there is a large technology gap between India and other developing countries. I will cite one example, which, I am sure, the Minister will be able to appreciate. One example is broadband. India today is far behind the rest of the world in implementing broadband. Let us not fool ourselves that broadband is only for the urban; that broadband is only for the rich. Broadband is precisely for the rural areas and it is precisely for the poor. In the home State of the Minister, Chennai is a very well developed IT centre. Bangaluru is a very well developed IT centre. But we have the skills and the human resources, and the rural areas of Orissa or West Bengal or Bihar or Jharkhand can also get a piece of the IT industry, provided they have world-class telecom service. This world-class telecom service will come primarily from fixed line. Why? Wireless can be cheap voice telephony. It can also give us internet access. But true industrial strength broadband, which any BPO requires, which any back-end IT set-up requires, which any four or five graduate students can get together and start developing software and to be connected with the rest of the world, should be provided. (Contd. by VK/2P)

VK/2P/3.30

SHRI B.J. PANDA (CONTD): Today and for many years into the future, very high capacity and high-speed broadband access can be provided only by wire line networks for a long time. We must thus encourage wire line. But that is not happening adequately. There is also a reason to believe that there is step-motherly treatment towards encouraging investment in fixed line networks. First of all, the kind of incentives that are being provided today for mobile investment is simply not matched by the kind of incentives that are provided for fixed line investments. There are many regulatory barriers today which make it not attractive enough for anybody to go into the fixed line network investment particularly in the rural areas. My hon. colleague was just talking about the proof of the pudding. The proof of the pudding is that there is hardly any fixed line investment. Whatever little there is, it is only the BSNL. Where is the fixed line investment from the Reliance, Bharati, Hutch and all the others? Now you can argue that they are only interested in profit and that is why they are not investing in these high cost networks particularly in rural areas. That is precisely why we have the USO Fund. The precise purpose of the USO Fund is, where there is not enough profit for these people to go in, we have a tender process; whoever bids for the lowest amount of subsidy to make his project viable, picks up the fund and goes there. You are planning to do the same for the mobile allocation of the USO Fund. Some of your colleagues and other Ministries like the Ministry of Civil Aviation are now planning to do exactly the same, to have tenders for the non-profitable routes which some of these airlines will take up by bidding for what is the lowest amount of subsidy that they will take. Why can't we have the same for the fixed line? As I said, the proof of the pudding is, there is not enough investment in fixed line networks, particularly in rural areas. We must correct that imbalance. I will support this Bill, but I strongly urge the Minister to do some introspection, to do some re-jigging of the regulations in force so that fixed line networks become more viable, more attractive to all the operators including the BSNL which has done a Yeoman's service in the past, but has been dropping for the last five years. As I said, none of the private operators has made any investment yet.

My point is, we are today talking about an amendment to the Act which has been in place since 1885. I think that reflects our mindset of making incremental changes. The hon. Minister is probably the youngest Minister who has ever held this portfolio. He is a man of the 21st Century. Time has come to do away with these two centuries old legislation and to come up with a comprehensive Bill which is suitable for the 21st Century telecom environment. We have done this in electricity. In energy, starting in the early 90s, we had many little incremental changes, until three years ago we had finally a comprehensive Bill which in 2003 replaced the Electricity Act of 1910, replaced the Electricity Act of 1948 and replaced all the other little changes that we had made in-between. It is high time that you come up with a comprehensive Telecom Act which takes into account the current reality, replaces all the existing laws and is suitable for today's environment.

Sir, I will conclude with only one comment. The Minister has done some good work. As I said, he has stepped up the utilisation of whatever funds have been allocated. But here I would like to take this opportunity, as the hon. Finance Minister is sitting here, to point out something. It has been stated in public by officials of the Telecom Ministry that the reason that the USO Funds have not been given in proportion to what is available, is due to the Finance Ministry. They have made a point that the collection of the USO Fund goes into the Consolidated Fund and it does not get released fast enough. That is a matter between your two Ministries to sort out. I will urge you to please sit together and find ways to disburse this fund faster. I think, equally the responsibility lies with the Telecom Ministry. I would like to know as to how many applications are there for the USO Fund. It is one thing to say that because it goes into the Consolidated Fund, it does not get released fast enough. The other question is, beside the BSNL, how many applications are there from all the operators seeking USO Fund?

(Contd. by 2Q)

RG/3.35/2Q

SHRI B.J. PANDA (contd.): That is the core responsibility of the Telecom Ministry to encourage those applications and to facilitate those funds released so that these investments can take place.

While concluding, I would just like to point out that the hon. Minister should remember that he is not the Minister for Mobile Telephony in the country. He is the Minister for all telecom services. It is a great thing that mobile telephony is doing such a great job in this country. We must encourage it. But let us not forget the core purpose for which our USO fund was set up. And I look forward to a revised policy, revised implementation, which will make possible much faster investments in Fixed Line networks, particularly in rural areas. (Ends)

SHRI SYED AZEED PASHA (ANDHRA PRADESH): Hon. Deputy Chairman, Sir, while endorsing the viewpoint expressed by my Left friend, Shri Tapan Kumar Sen, I want to point out certain issues in regard to Fixed Line Cellular Services. Even though we were having a declared policy that by the year 2002, we would take the telecommunication facility to every nook and corner of the country, to the remote areas and the rural areas of our country, but, unfortunately, we are yet to reach the target. That is why I join other Members in saying that this is the most important task which we have to undertake. And as regards the private companies which have terribly failed to fulfil their contractual obligation of taking this network to the vast rural areas, I think, some serious view has to be taken and we have to find out why they have failed, even though we were having the USO Fund, which is nothing but a great incentive for them, to cover the uncovered areas. Unfortunately, what we are seeing is that more than 49,640 villages are yet to be covered by telecommunication lines. While appreciating the good work done by the BSNL for taking it to vast rural areas, there are certain flaws which I want to point out. There is a big queue and a long waiting list because people, who aspire to get the BSNL connection, are being told that there is shortage of SIM cards and hence they will not be able to meet their demand. I want to ask one thing: When the private companies are able to procure SIM cards and there is no shortage, why is it that the BSNL is facing this shortage, that too, an acute shortage? They may say that the demand is more with the BSNL, and that is why, they are not in a position to fulfil the demand. But, these private companies, in spite of having a huge demand, are able to fulfil their targets. So, on this, I think, the hon. Minister should give a serious thought in fulfilling this gap and not to have any sort of waiting lists before them. Then, while talking about the fixed lines which will have to be provided to the rural areas, we are saying that there is no waiting list at all, and the demand in urban areas is very much going down. When this is so, why can't we transfer this fund to the rural areas so that this fund is utilised there?

Sir, my learned friend, Mr. Naik, has already pointed out that even though we have been provided with a good BSNL apparatus, the GRPS connection is yet to be given. Every time I go and ask them about it, they tell me that I would be given the GRPS connection within a fortnight or so. But this is yet to be done. If we get this connection, then, it will really help in our work and functioning. Thank you very much. (Ends) (Followed by 2R)

2r/3.40/ks

MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (SHRI DAYANIDHI MARAN): Sir, in the first instance, I thank the hon. Members who have supported the Bill and also those who have given their valuable opinion on this Government Bill.

Sir, the main reason for the department to bring the Bill was this. At the time when this scheme was envisaged, it was pointed out that the definition of the Universal Service Obligation in Clause 1A, Section 3, of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 included the word `basic'. Though the word `basic' is not defined in the Act... (Interruptions) You say the word `basic' refers to wireline and fixed wireless terminals. It was felt that because of the connotation of the word `basic', it would not be possible to support mobile infrastructure activities from the Universal Service Obligation Fund. The Department of Legal Affairs opined that it was necessary to delete the word `basic' by a suitable amendment. The Department of Telecom also supported this view. We felt that it was better to safeguard ourselves from any future litigation.

Some Members did raise the question as to why this Ordinance was brought in. Sir, the Monsoon Session of Parliament ended on 25th August, 2006. Preparatory work for the scheme to support the infrastructure for cellular services in rural and remote areas was at an advanced stage. The passage of the Bill which had been introduced in the Parliament was awaited. The scheme would have been pushed back by several months. The delay in launching the scheme would have affected the provisions of not only the voice telephony, but also the effort to keep extended broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas. Keeping in view the strong sentiments expressed by the Standing Committee, the Consultative Committee and the debates in the Parliament on the urgent need to provide telecom services in rural areas, it was felt that the promulgation of an Ordinance would help in the early launch of the scheme. It was pointed out after the issue of the Ordinance that a draft tender had already been placed on the website of the Department of Telecommunication and notice inviting the tender would be issued by the third week of December. After this, the rules for the administration of the Fund under the Indian Telegraph Act Rules, 2006 have been published on 17th November, 2006. A draft tender document for setting up and managing the infrastructure sites and provision of mobiles with a specific rural and remote areas of the country has been placed on the DoT website on 21.11.2006 by inviting comments and suggestions of the stakeholders.

Sir, many hon. Members here raised a lot of questions and also made a lot of suggestions. In fact, Sir, Shri B.J. Panda had raised very good points. He said that the USOF was now being diverted for wireless. Sir, India is a developing country and we are a country of paradox. All the hon. Members are asking us why we are not investing in fixed lines, I would like to quote the number of landline connections being surrendered every month, every year, to the Telecom Department. From the State from which Shri Panda comes, in Orissa, in 2003, 64,924 landlines were surrendered. In 2004-05, 36,137 landlines were surrendered. In 2005-06, 47513 landlines were surrendered. In this year, up to now, 40,000 landlines have been surrendered. The fact is that today, in mobile phones, there is a boom. We should choose a technology that people want. It is not what we want. Today, if people want mobile phones, we should provide them mobile phones. Sir, when the mobile phone was introduced in 1994-95, it was for the rich, it was for the elite. A call per minute cost Rs.16.80. It was not one-way. If I had called you, you would also have paid Rs.16.40. Today, because of the telecom revolution and also because of the policies of the Government, you can call at a charge of, as low as, one rupee and there is no charge for incoming calls. It is absolutely free to the subscriber. Sir, people are saying that we should encourage landlines. The consumers want wireless. Today, a rickshawala wants to have a wireless. It is convenient for him. Take a middle-class family. The husband has a mobile phone. The wife has a mobile phone. They find it difficult to have a landline because it does not make sense monetarily to pay three rentals. With this situation, when consumers want mobile phones, we have to provide them mobile phones.

SHRI B. J. PANDA: Will you please yield for half-a-minute? There is no competition in landlines.

SHRI DAYANIDHI MARAN: Let me complete. Sir, many Members raised a point. They were a little confused about what the Universal Service Obligation Fund is and the way we are using it. The Universal Service Obligation Fund is collected from out of the license fees of all the operators, not only of the BSNL. It is collected from the operators. Five per cent, that is nearly 50 per cent of the license fee, is taken from the license fees collected from all the operators and this money is being used for the Universal Sevice Obligation Fund. (Contd. by 2s/tdb)

TDB/2S/3.45

SHRI DAYANIDHI MARAN (CONTD.): Sir, till now, the BSNL has been the beneficiary of it. It has been using 98 per cent of the USO funds. Till now, 98 per cent of the USO funds are being used by the BSNL alone. Sir, we also want the private operators to come in. Sir, the technology is changing. Sir, today, the hon. Members asked me as to why we are not giving new landlines. One landline connection costs Rs.30,000. It is not viable for any competition. Sir, today, the BSNL has to behave like a private entity. It is much more faster and easier to give a WLL connection or a CDMA connection or a mobile connection. Sir, today, this House is talking differently. But, the world is looking at India totally differently. Sir, in January, I had the occasion to meet the Prime Minister of Finland. He had come here to inaugurate a Nokia factory. He asked me, 'Mr. Maran, how are your mobile connections doing?' I joked to him and said, 'Sir, we are adding the population of Finland this month to the number of new users to India.' It is five million, Sir. When the UPA Government took over, we were adding 1.75 million subscribers. Sir, last month, it was 6.8 million. We are touching the seven million mark. Sir, when the UPA Government took over, we had only 75 million connections, both inclusive of mobile and landline. Sir, today, we have 118 million users, both mobile and landline. Sir, the GSM alone has crossed 100 million. We have now elevated ourselves to the top three countries using the phone lines. There is China; then Russia and now India, Sir. We are having amazing growth in this technology. Sir, today, the cost of a GSM or wireless line is just Rs.3,000 plus. It is so economical for the telecom companies to provide GSM connections or CDMA connections to their subscribers. Simultaneously, Sir, Members were saying that the private operators are doing much better in mobile, and the BSNL and the MTNL are going slow. Sir, this is mistaken and misleading. I feel the hon. Members are mistaking the way the BSNL is operating. Sir, the private operators came into the operation of wireless service and GSM service way back in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Do you know when did the BSNL start this service? It started only in 2002. Sir, till now, the BSNL has added 22 million mobile connections. Do you know how much we have added in the last two-and-a-half years? Sir, 16 million new users have been added by the BSNL in just the last two-and-a-half years. So, you can see the way we are doing it. We are number two, compared to the other operators who had started much earlier. Sir, the BSNL is doing a yeoman service. Sir, it is a constant progress. Why are we asking for the USO funds? Sir, we are not asking for the USO funds to put up towers in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai or Bangalore. We are amending this Bill so that the USO fund can be used to put towers in remote areas where no towers exist. There is no telecom service provider in those areas, not even the BSNL or anyone which is providing telecom service in those areas. We want to use these funds for those areas. Sir, we are enjoying the benefit of technology; we are able to carry a mobile phone in our pockets and walk around. Sir, our people who are living in rural areas are not even eligible for this. Sir, it is not possible. Sir, by providing these 8000 towers in about 22 States, we will be able to provide telecom service fast in the rural areas. Sir, we feel that by bringing this Bill, we will try to cover areas, villages which have population of more than 2000. Sir, whichever villages are eligible, which have a population of more than 2000 will be covered in this scheme. Our idea is to provide 80 per cent coverage of wireless line by 2007. It is our plan, Sir. For the first time, the Department of Telecom has put up a target. Sir, when the UPA Government came to power in 2004, we said that we will have 215 million users by the year 2007. Today, we have reached at 180 million. In the next one year, I am very confident that we will overshoot our 215 million mark. Sir, we have been aggressive now. We have also put up a target to reach 500 million. Today, mobile is the fastest way of reaching the consumer.

Sir, we have reduced the national long-distance charges. Today, in one rupee you can make a call from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Today, the people are very happy with this. With all these things, they are happy. But, the picture is not good. The urban areas are benefited. In the cities, we have a teledensity of more than 40 per cent to 55 per cent. (Contd. by 2t-kls)

KLS/2T3.50

SHRI DAYANIDHI MARAN (CONTD): But in the rural areas we do not have. That is precisely why we are bringing this amendment and precisely because the divide between the rural and urban areas is so much and we have to take mobile service revolution to our villages. That is the reason that we are asking now for an amendment so that we can use the USO fund to provide mobile towers. Again, Sir, May I ask whether it is going to be BSNL. No, Sir. It depends because we are not for one person; it is not for BSNL or Tatas, or Reliance or Bharti. It is going to be a bid process and whoever needs subsidy for a passive infrastructure. The hon. Member has asked, it is exactly the same scheme to provide passive infrastructure support for five years so that any area which is not viable they are putting the sweet, they are putting the carrot so that these service providers can go and whoever wants. And that is not for one. Each tower can support three service sub-providers so that there is competition; there will be competitive rates, competitive rentals which will come to our people, our citizens in the villages. This precisely is the reason why we are doing it. Sir, many Members asked various questions. Sir, I am sure that with your support if they want two phones or three phones, we are ready to provide. As long as the Parliament is interested, we have no objection. ...(Interruptions)...

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: They are only asking for two chips.

SHRI DAYANIDHI MARAN: I think it is up to the Parliament to decide what to do. ...(Interruptions)... We are only service providers. ...(Interruptions)...

SHRI VIRENDRA BHATIA: Roaming should be charged at local rates. ....(Interruptions)...

SHRI DAYANIDHI MARAN: Again the hon. Members are confused. It is not MTNL or BSNL; it is the Parliament orders. ...(Interruptions)... It is the Parliament's decision, which we implement. We are not the choosers. ...(Interruptions)... Whatever Parliament orders, we implement. ...(Interruptions)...Some hon. Members wanted that we should give fax. It is all possible in any network, including the BSNL and MTNL. But you have to change your equipment. If the equipment you buy has got facility, then it is possible for you to receive fax. All of us are using the standard science and technology, Sir. The BSNL and MTNL are on the top of technology and we are not compromising any of the technologies. Sir, as per the amendment requested by our hon. Member, Tapan Sen, Sir, we feel that the aim and purpose of the present scheme is to provide share infrastructure for providing mobile service in the rural and remote areas. Sharing will reduce the capital expenditure and provide competition, which has implication of affordability. The services, which are already being provided in the rural and remote areas, are very often being provided by the service providers in the individual capacity. The infrastructure set up by them may not be adequate whenever shared by two other service providers. Further, some service providers had gone into selected rural areas and after careful consideration of economic viability of providing service to those areas, under the scheme now proposed, those remote and backward areas are being identified where there is existing fixed wireless or mobile coverage. Moreover, they are such backward areas where without incentive the telecom service providers may not go. So, we are not able to accept this proposal of amendment, Sir. And for the first time, Sir, hon. Member, Mr. Panda has requested about broadband. In this new scheme, which we have proposed, Sir, we are trying to bring broadband to the rural areas also. We are proposing to provide broadband to all the schools in this scheme so that we can take broadband service there. In fact, the BSNL has come supportive, Sir. The BSNL has announced the year 2006 as the year of broadband. We realise, Sir, we have to promote broadband. Sir, the hon. Members have raised several issues. Sir, we announced our broadband policy only in January 2005 and in two years, Sir, we have crossed 1.5 million broadband users. The BSNL is coming out with much more services in the coming year. We should also understand that broadband service does not depend on broadband alone. We need computers also. The computer penetration is only 4.5 million to 5 million a year. We also have to work on the contents side, Sir, which will be part of the IT which we are doing. Sir, the Members asked various things and we are trying to do as much as possible. In no area, nowhere, the BSNL has tried to compromise its service. But we do understand, Sir, that we are constantly growing. Sir, today the BSNL and Indian telecom sector, with all the numbers if we add, we have just got 15 per cent teledensity. That means, Sir, a lot of road is still to be covered and we have to cover more districts and more people have to use phone. We feel, Sir, that this is a process trying to get more towers and more consumers to use. We feel that we are on the right track. Again, Sir, the technology -- whether it is going to be GSM or CDMA or WLL or fixed line, it depends on the company which wins the tender for the lower support and whatever it decides it is best for a particular location, Sir. With this, Sir, I request that the Bill may be passed. (Ends) (Followed by 2U)

NBR-SCH/2U/3.55.

SHRI TAPAN KUMAR SEN (WEST BENGAL): Sir, I accept what the hon. Minister has said about the purpose. It is a very laudable purpose. Mobile services have to be taken to the remote areas and to villages and for that purpose financial support is to be given.

Sir, my amendment only pertains to those agencies that have already provided the mobile services in the rural and remote areas as defined by the Government of India i.e., the Ministry of Telecommunications. My point is they should be covered retrospectively with the 'blessings' of this Fund. Why should there be any difficulty when this amendment does not contravene the purpose of the whole exercise? It does not contravene any of the objectives of the Bill. So, why you don't want to do it? Otherwise, shall I apprehend that after this, the whole thing will go to mobile services and the landline services are neglected? I don't have that kind of an apprehension. So, I request, again, the hon. Minister to kindly consider the amendment, since there should not be any difficulty on the part of the Government to accept this amendment which says that you extend this scheme to those who have already providing the mobile services. Thank you.

(Ends)

SHRI V. NARAYANASAMY (PUDUCHERRY): Sir, I am proud of the hon. Minister.

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Are you seeking clarification?

SHRI V. NARAYANASAMY: Yes, Sir. He is inviting a lot of multinational companies and they are coming and investing in India to manufacture mobile phones. Of course, most of them are going to Tamil Nadu. It is a different thing.

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Should they also come to Puducherry?

SHRI V. NARAYANASAMY: Sir, I am coming to that subject only. I say that some of the industries should also come to Puducherry.

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Okay.

SHRI V. NARAYANASAMY: Sir, I have not come to the subject so far.

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Discussion on this Bill is over. Don't come to the subject again.

SHRI V. NARAYANASAMY: Sir, it is a very important thing. The hon. Minister will answer. Why can't the Telecom Ministry itself develop a technology and put up mobile manufacturing industries of its own? Why can't the Ministry do it? Allowing multinational companies is all right. Why can't the Ministry set up units on its own so that the public sector will also grow? This is what I want to know from the hon. Minister. Thank you. (Ends)

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(ִ֯)

SHRI R. PERUMAL (TAMIL NADU): Sir, the hon. Minister is proud of BSNL. But, for a single connection, we have to try 100 times or 200 times. In spite of that, we are not able to get it. There is a standard reply that there is error in connection. I would like to know what new technology the Ministry is developing in this regard. Thank you. (Ends)

(FOLLOWED BY USY "2W")

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