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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Have put things on the right track: Ravi Shankar Prasad

In a detailed interview with Pranav Mukul, Prasad spoke about not only the course corrections he made but also the new tracks he has laid for the industry’s progress.

Changing the image of Sanchar Bhawan was one of his priorities when Ravi Shankar Prasad assumed office of the Minister of Communications and Information Technology. In a detailed interview with Pranav Mukul, Prasad spoke about not only the course corrections he made but also the new tracks he has laid for the industry’s progress. Excerpts: 

What are your priorities for the telecom sector?

When the Prime Minister gave me this department, I had fixed up five priority areas. First and foremost was to change the image of Sanchar Bhawan. As you know, it was in the news for all the wrong reasons. 2G happened from the chair where I was sitting. Two years down the line, I’m having a sense of satisfaction that the officers have become enthused. Entry of the middle man is banned, and decisions are being taken in a fair and transparent manner. We got the highest-ever spectrum auction revenue of over Rs 1,10,000 crore, and I have consciously ensured fair competition. When 4G licences were to be given, they were given to all. Let the consumers select the best. Two years down the line, not everything is very best, but things are moving on the right track.

What are the steps taken to invite investment in the telecom sector?

Telecom has received the highest foreign direct investment (FDI) ever of Rs 26,000 crore in the last two years. I have cleared all the policies pending for the last 8-9 years. Spectrum sharing, trading, harmonisations, liberalisation guidelines, identification of defence bands, open-source policy, machine to machine standards. And I’ve always said that if you want more policy initiatives, come to me.

The postal department is a huge machinery of both manpower as well as infrastructure. What has the government done to put this machinery to good use?

India Post is a fine 150-year-old body, which always remained in the background. I have pushed them in a big way. Improving their operations, and pushing them for bigger things. Speed Post has been adjudged as the best courier service by the CAG in eight states of India, and the report is before Parliament. Their revenue has grown by 7.1 per cent … We have also gone for a lot of modernisation of the department. In 2004, we had only four ATMs. Now there are 913 postal ATMs. We have about 1,54,000 post offices all over the country, out of which about 25,000 are regular post offices and the rest are rural post offices.

This vast network has been put to work for e-commerce delivery, and this is a very outstanding success story that I need to acknowledge. What is important is that the entire postal department is very inspired. We are supposed to play a role in the field of digital growth and financial inclusion. The postal department has opened 84,00,000 Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana accounts. All the banks combined have opened only 4,00,000 accounts.

India’s electronic import bill has been something that we are not very proud of, especially when with the country’s immense manufacturing capabilities. What measures have you taken to correct that?

Electronic manufacturing has been pushed in a very big way. When I became the minister, Rs 11,698 crore was the investment made in the sector, now there are proposals of Rs 1.21 lakh crore. About Rs 20,000 crore have been cleared. All the top mobile companies of the world have proposed these investments, and the most significant part is that 11 crore mobile phones were manufactured in the country last year, which is an 83 per cent rise from the previous year.

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