India to lower operational charges for telecom firms

Wednesday, 27 November 2002, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Minister for IT and Communications Pramod Mahajan said Tuesday the government plans to sharply lower the operational charges for telecom services providers in the country in the next two to three years.

"Revenue share, license fee and spectrum fee in India will come down to international level and it will not be as high as it is today," Mahajan told reporters on the sidelines of an economic summit here.

"Today these three levies are much higher than the international level of three to four percent. We are planning to bring it down from the current level of about 10-12 percent in a phased manner over the next two to three years," he added.

The minister said the finance ministry had already given "in principle" approval to the proposal and formal discussions on the issue would start after the ongoing session of Parliament.

Earlier addressing the industry leaders, Mahajan said the government has set up a national commission to explore the possibility of computerising all courts in different parts of the country.

"We have appointed a national commission on e-courts. The commission will have four or five judges who will prepare a roadmap for computerisation of all courts in the country.

"Many cases are pending in different courts for long. One way to reduce the number of pending cases is to go for computerisation. We should do this in the entire country in a phased manner," he said.

"Hopefully in six months they (the commission members) will give their recommendations and then we will implement it".

The government has also decided to set up a national group that will work towards creating a "single electronic window" to link the various departments in the federal government, state government and the industry.

The government has appointed Sam Pitroda, chairman of WorldTel, an organisation set up by the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union, to head the technology wing of the national group.

On the passage of long pending Convergence Bill, the minister said it would be taken up for discussion in Parliament next year.

"The standing committee on communication and IT has given its report on Convergence Bill. The report is under study. The (telecom) department has suggested end number of changes in the bill.

"After the department finalises its views on the report, it would go to the Cabinet and then to Parliament. We have to take a holistic approach on the recommendations. Hopefully it will come in the budget session next year".

The bill proposes to create a Communication Commission of India, will be an independent body overseeing the Internet, broadcasting and telecommunications industry.

The Indian cabinet cleared introduction of a convergence bill in August last year. It was later referred to a Standing Committee, which brings together MPs from several parties, for a debate on the proposals of the bill.

The proposed functions of the Communication Commission would include regulation of carriage and content and issue of licenses. It would also set tariff and access conditions for "fair, equitable and non-discriminatory access.

Referring to a report that a member of the New Jersey state senate has introduced a bill that would prevent business process outsourcing contracts being outsourced to India, Mahajan said: "We have no control over U.S. policy.

"But I don't think it is likely to happen. We will, however, use our good offices if such a situation arose".
Source: IANS
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