Dept of Telecommunications panel to suggest reform measures in business-friendly move

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The department of telecommunications (DoT) has set up a five-member committee to suggest measures to reform and restructure its functioning to bring about an industry and business-friendly approach. The idea is also to reduce the compliance burden on the industry for various processes. 

Communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has been highlighting about efficient administration and making consumer-friendly policies with light-touch regulations. The government had last year announced a set of telecom reforms to address the financial problems of the telecom operators. The government feels a healthy telecom industry is required if connectivity has to be provided to all the people of the country.

“If the industry is strong and sound, we can reach out and provide telecom services in remote places in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, North-East, Ladakh and areas in Kashmir valley. For that, we need a strong industry. Our thought process is that we have to strengthen the industry by bringing structural changes,” Vaishnaw had said after the reforms. The DoT is working on another round of telecom reforms, that will be announced soon.

At present, there is very low-level coordination between various units of DoT and many a times, operators have to submit similar kind of compliances to different units. The burden of compliance can be understood from the fact that mobile operators have to submit around 1,500-2,000 compliances in a year to various field units of DoT.

Considering that there are 22 licensed service areas (LSAs) or telecom circles across the country, the number of compliances can be anywhere around 22,000. Apart from compliance, there is the problem of overlapping jurisdiction. Further, too many senior officers of DoT are doing work, that can be termed as below their seniority. For instance, around 5-6 DDG-level officers are posted at each TERM cell. The TERM cells usually look after customer acquisition forms and do field inspection of  telecom networks, etc. The same work is being done by Trai also. Across India, there are 34 TERM cells of DoT.

There are 28 controllers of communications accounts offices in the country to look after financial statements of telecom operators like licence fees, etc., and do the audits. “This is a waste of human resources. All this work can easily be centralised at the DoT headquarters. The surplus ITS officers in DoT need to be identified and posted to state and local bodies to help their digitisation works,” said an executive.

The DoT committee may also examine the set-up of DoT field units – LSA units, CCA units and wireless monitoring organization (WMO) units in each telecom circle, and propose reforms to ensure full coordination. The committee is chaired by additional secretary VL Kantha Rao and has senior DDG SK Jain, additional CGCA SK Mishra, wireless advisor RK Saxena and joint secretary Anand Singh as members. Further, the committee may co-opt additional members as required and seek presentations from heads of various attached and field offices. The committee has to submit report within three months.