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February 10, 1999


Phone tariffs redo decision next week

Email this story to a friend. The communications ministry will take a decision on tariff restructuring proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India within a week after a meeting between the members of the authority and the parliamentary standing committee, Union Minister for Communications Jagmohan has said.

He told reporters after releasing the MAX-XL telephone exchange manufactured by HTL in Madras that the authority's proposals to revise the tariff structure have received opposition from some quarters.

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Now the ministry has convened a meeting for next week in order to take a final decision in this regard.

Indicating that the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited's entry into Madras is not likely to come through soon, he said the Department of Telecommunications is of the view that it would affect the revenue prospects of its Madras telecom circle that is spending revenue to develop rural networks.

One view has it that if MTNL is allowed it would affect the revenue of the Madras circle and ultimately affect investments in rural areas, he said. "I don't mind allowing MTNL. But it is a matter of balancing the two (revenue aspect and spending in rural areas)," he said.

Jagmohan said DoT would use indigenous C-DOT technology for setting up exchanges in rural areas because it is possible to set up an exchange even for a minimum of 500 lines.

The technology has a special relevance for developing countries like India. "We do not have to import any foreign technology for this purpose," he added. The technology was demonstrated to South Africa and that country was very much impressed, he claimed.

He said the 'CORDECT' technology developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, seems to be extremely cost effective and after it was tested by the Madras circle, DoT would take it up at a bigger scale.

Replying to a question, he said the test report would be ready in three to six months and after going through the report, DoT would take a decision.

The technology, tested in laboratory, proved operationally feasible and environmentally suitable. The indigenous technology has already been licensed in China, Brazil and France, he added.

Jagmohan was confident that CORDECT would succeed and whatever the problems at the operational level, they could be set right.

On private companies going back on agreements, he said those who fail to fulfil the contractual obligations would have to face consequences spelt out in the agreements.

Asked about the new telecom policy, he said DoT, after seeking suggestions from various quarters, would come up with a draft policy.

He said DoT has decided to introduce pagers for all linesmen in the city to attend to subscriber complaints quickly.

The new facility was tried in Indore and proved successful. The number of complaints has come down from 75 a day to 5, he claimed. Subscribers, however, would not be able to directly reach the linesmen.

Jagmohan also called upon the chief general managers to make it a point to meet the customers on a particular day to sort out their problems. He is also contemplating to set apart a specified time to meet the customers in Delhi to redress their grievances.

He suggested that a software could be developed so that he could, by a touch of a button, have a firsthand account of the nature of complaints and the time taken by the department to rectify them.

The ministry is also committed to reorganise the telecom sector by decentralising powers at all levels, Jagmohan assured.

He said DoT has already issued orders to empower chief general managers to execute works, purchase equipment and accept or reject tenders.

The reorganisation is also aimed at recognising and encouraging talents of young engineers and technologists and checking brain drain, he said.

In the present system there are many bottlenecks and CGMs are not given adequate powers resulting in execution of important works at the eleventh hour, sometimes even compromising quality, he regretted.

He said CGMs would be given full powers and would be made responsible for their respective circles. The main objective is to strengthen the field units that serve the people, he added.

Jagmohan lamented that while the technology and aspirations of the people are changing, the administrative structure and procedures remain unchanged and this is the great drawback in the reform process.


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