ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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HEALTH-Changing Fashions

the high value services into which the private operators are being allowed entry. At the same time, the department will continue to be saddled with the responsibility of providing run-of-the-mill telecom services to the overwhelming majority of users, in which the private operators have tittle interest. It has been estimated that the terms on which the tenders for privatisation of basic telecom services were invited were so fixed, in order to make them attractive to the intending private operators and to persuade them to agree to payment of high licence fees, that the department of telecommunications stands to lose revenue to the tune of well over Rs 1,20,000 crore over a period of 15 years. This raises two questions. One, whether the terms on which the telecom services are being privatised are not unduly favourable to the intending private operators. The total lack of transparency in the fixing of the terms of the tenders for privatisation was one of the major issues raised in the bunch of petitions challenging the modus operandi of telecom privatisation which the Supreme Court has turned down on the ground that the court cannot go into the merits of the government' s telecom policy which is a matter for parliament to determine. The second question relates to the implications of the government treating the licence fees paid by the private operators as part of its general revenue for meeting its current expenditure. Privatisation is going to mean enormous loss of future revenue to the department of telecommunications because of the ceding of the most lucrative geographical areas and services to the private operators even as it will continue to have the responsibility, as noted above, for providing the basic services to the vast majority of the users and the relatively unattractive areas. With the receipts from licence fees appropriated by general revenue, where are the resources for the telecommunications department to meet the demands on it to come from? Further, with privatisation the scope for cross-subsidisation by the department of provision of services in the less well-off areas and to the less well-off users from the charges from the relatively prosperous areas and from the high value services will be rendered negligible, making inevitable a steep increase in the charges payable by the former category of areas and users for whatever services the department, with its severely attenuated resources, is able and inclined to make available to them.

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