..................In touch with India
..................By Balbir K. Punj
...............Wednesday, May 1, 2002
Want to call New York for Rs 10 a minute? Now you can -over the Internet connection. It is legal from April 1, last. And thereby hangs a tale. So far we had governments banning new technologies merely because the incumbent providers of the same service would be crippled. Remember the good old Ambassador and Premier days? For 35 years Congress governments forced us to buy them. There was virtual freeze on technology. While the world moved from 8 km per litre of petrol to 20, we remained stuck on 8.
Just calculate the enormous amount of fuel wasted, the higher transport costs incurred and the huge price spent on these car models. The country lost astronomical sums while the socialist conscience of the Congressmen was propitiated. The empire of inefficiency collapsed like a house of cards once other models were allowed to enter fray.
The ordinary buyer waited for ten years to get the Ambassador car after registering. The fact is just emblematic of socialist economy, as such. Thanks to Mr PV Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh, the socialist veil was torn open and the reality struck us like a bolt from the blue - we were being taken for a ride all along while the economy of black money ruled.
Quite a similar story revolved round communications. One had to wait for ten years to get a telephone connection. The alternative was to pay someone under the table in order to jump the long queues. India virtually had the highest STD and ISD rates in the world. So most people avoided making long distance calls. Till 1987, you had to go to the telegraph office if you wanted to make a long distance call but did not have the facility on your telephone. In 1990, we still had only five million telephone lines in a country of 900 million people. That was a little over half per cent.
Today there are more than six lakh ISD/STD PCOs all across the country. And anyone can call up anyone across the world by getting into one of them. The transport constraint, the communications constraint, the overall scarcity in economy and the de-linking of rewards from performance in governance, ensured that India was the last, if at all it was, destination for investment.
Indian capital could have gone abroad to find profitable investment opportunities. But the pseudo-socialists in power had decreed that the capital should not be allowed to migrate. It went, nonetheless, through the huge underground pipeline.
Our "achievements" under the pseudo-socialists included stagnation in foreign trade. We commanded a ludicrous 0.6 per cent of the world trade for 40 years at a stretch and our economy grew by meager 3 per cent. The world laughed at this Hindu rate of growth - a term originally coined by economist Raj Kishore.
On April 1 last, international telecom tariff became cheaper by 15 to 20 per cent. Comparatively lower-quality voice traffic over Internet is as cheap as Rs 10 a minute to London. The monopoly of the official carrier VSNL (now a Tata concern) ended on that day, and several new carriers emerged. There exist still further prospects of lowering ISD tariff. These private operators are awaiting finalisation of agreements with other carriers and security clearances before commencing their operations.
The Vajpayee Government had decided two years ago, braving the advice of some critics, that the ISD should be opened up in 2002, that is two years in advance as contemplated under the National Telecom Policy of 1994.
The Government had also planned to sell off the official international carrier VSNL. The deft handling of the issue by Communications and IT Minister Pramod Mahajan and Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie resulted in the Government raising Rs 200 crore more than the reserve price; despite the fact, VSNL was to lose its monopoly from April this year.
The telecom industry is excited ever since Mr Mahajan took charge of the portfolio because the industry sees him as a person with a modern outlook. The enthusiasm he has infused into the IT industry in the last two years of his presence at the Electronic Niketan, has augured well for the telecom industry.
The private sector is vibrant and active in telecom with the cellular service providers alone investing some Rs 16,000 crore in it. Twice this investment is expected in the expansion process that is now taking place - although measurable returns are still two years away. Bharti, the market leader, alone has $1 billion (Rs 4,800 crore) in foreign direct investment. Government policies could derail much of this hope if the Minister concerned lacked the vision and drive.
The presence of a world class communication structure is but mandatory for foreign investment and business to come to India. Those who visit trade and technology hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong are struck by the sight of every one carrying a mobile and talking almost endlessly as they walk, drive or eat. Our mobile phone density is just 0.6 per cent - six million out of 1,000 million population while China has over 100 million mobile phones for 1,200 million people. The difference actually defined the potential for growth.
The more people stay in constant touch through mobile and fixed telephones, the more can they communicate on the move with combination of mobile phone and the Internet (as with latest mobile phone technologies, especially the third generation phones), and the more business they can do. A greater volume of business will generate more employment, more exchange of goods and services, more foreign and domestic trade. In the process, more prosperity will be generated and shared. The highly successful Japanese telecom company NTT DoCoMo has called its generation-2.5 mobile phones with Internet access on it as Freedom of Mobile Access (FOMA) - and not without reason.
"Easy access" is the watchword of the communication revolution so passionately pursued by Mr Mahajan. Access to a possible trading partner; access for farmers to information on prices of farm products and inputs at any time and with facility; for students, access to knowledge that normally would have taken a visit to library; access to networks that enable suppliers and buyers to remain synchronised with one another so that goods move precisely at the moment required - all these are successes of the communication revolution, which seems to be diversifying into endless new opportunities for the common people.
It is not just to enable you to chat with friends abroad that the international long distance rates are being slashed. It is also to increase opportunities for business contacts, and for being informed about worldwide business from farms to processing centres, from factories to markets, and from service providers to service users.
By April 2003, one will be habituated to the facility of calling from one's fixed or mobile phone and demanding to be served by the telephone company of your choice by merely dialing the access code of that company, irrespective of the fact that you may be a subscriber to a rival company's basic or mobile telephone service. That is the range of choice that the new liberal policy offers us.
REMEMBER THOSE DARK DAYS WHEN ALL THE SUNSHINE FELL IN THE BACKYARD OF BANDIT NEHRU AND HIS FAMILY WHILE ALL THE INFERIOR NATIVES WERE SMALL ANTS UNDER HIS TOWERING IMPERIAL STATURE?
REMEMBER THOSE DAYS WHEN THE BANDIT AND HIS "STOOGES & DOGS" COULD TRAVEL IN AND OUT OF INDIA AS OFTEN AS THEY LIKED WHILE THE COMMON CITIZEN WAS BANNED FROM GOING ABROAD LEST THE "COOLIE" GOT IDEAS ABROAD AND THEN ON RETURN "INFECTED" THE POPULATON?
REMEMBER THOSE DAYS WHEN YOU HAD TO DEPOSIT RS. 2000 WITH A DEALER, THEN TOLD TO WAIT FOR 32 YEARS FOR THE ALLOTMENT OF A SCOOTER?
BUT IF YOU PAID ANOTHER RS. 2000, THE DEALER GAVE YOU ONE IN A MONTH!
REMEMBER WHEN THE BANDITS & ROGUES OF CONGRESS TIED THE HANDS OF THE ENTREPRENEURS BEHIND THEIR BACKS AND FANNED THE CULTURE OF CORRUPTION AND RED TAPE, TO DRIVE THE INTELLIGENTSIA IN FRUSTRATION TO FOREIGN SHORES WHILE THE RULING "BASTARDS & BITCHES" INVITED FOREIGN "SPECIALISTS" TO SORT OUT INDIA'S ECONOMIC PROBLEMS?
REMEMBER THE DARK DAYS WHEN THE CONGRESS RASCALS IMPORTED FOREIGN WIVES, IN ORDER TO DEGRADE THE ENTIRE NATIVE FEMALE STOCK TO DRASTICALLY LOWER THE GENETIC QUALITY OF OUR HINDU NATION?
NOT ONE CONGRESS "BANDIT" OR "BITCH" WENT ON THE STAGE TO DECLARE, "BROWN IS BEAUTIFUL!"
AT LAST THE DOWNTRODDEN, ENSLAVED AND INTIMIDATED NATIVES, THE HINDUS, ACQUIRED DIGNITY ABD SELF-ESTEEM ON MAY 21, 1991, WHEN THE LAST OF THE "BASTARDS AND BITCHES, RASCALS & ROGUES" (LOAFER RAJIV KHAN, THE NOTORIOUS "BOFORS CHOR") WAS BLOWN UP BY A POWERFUL BOMB, AND A NEW GLORIOUS ERA OF THE BEAUTIFUL BROWN WAS USHERED IN OUR BHARAT.
...............THAT WAS GANDHI NO. 3.
THE BRAVE RAJPUTS, WEARING GLASS BANGLES, WILL "GO" FOR GANDHI NO. 4, WHEN THEIR WIVES TAUNT THEM, SHOUTING AT THE TOP OF THEIR VOICE,
"EUNUCHS, OUR NOBLE BHARAT IS NOT THE DIRT UNDER AN ITALIAN'S FOOT!"
THEN BHARAT, GIVEN HER HINDU GENIUS, WILL DEVELOP AND PROGRESS AT A RATE NOT SEEN EVEN IN GERMANY, CHINA AND JAPAN, AND ALL THOSE "TIGER" ECONOMIES TO THE EAST.