The Pulse Rate Factor

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

When this magazine met Arun Shourie sometime after he had taken over as the

new telecom minister, the first question we put to him was "Do you have a

vision for Indian telecom?" Pat came the reply, "I do not believe in

visions. There are too many visions in India."


Last week, when the opposition as well as ruling party members in the

Parliament charged the telecom minister with favoring cellular and mobile

operators against the fixed line services of MTNL and BSNL, there was little the

minister had as an explanation. In fact, he indirectly passed the blame on TRAI,

and hinted at a rollback. Also, for the first time in the history of India, we

have seen front-page cartoons in all leading newspapers in the country,

ridiculing whatever is happening in Indian telecom.

The industry as well as public sentiment against Arun Shourie and Pradeep

Baijal-led TRAI could not have been lower than this, ever. Prime Minister

Vajpayee had replaced Pramod Mahajan with Shourie not because the industry

complained–in fact, industry complaints were being completely ignored. The

replacement was done because the government was getting this message that public

mood could swing against the government because of the IUC-related impasse. And

it was thought that bringing Shourie in, who has a reputation of being ‘clean’,

would pacify everybody.

The current impasse is a result of hasty decision making, inconsistent policy

planning, and most unfortunately, a large-scale deceit in the corridors of

power. I do not think this can be so easily resolved. More so, if the minister

believes that Indian telecom does not need a vision. Further, because he does

not have time to listen to the needs and expectations of the telecom user–the

king who will ultimately drive all market forces. One Member of Parliament said

that "Arun Shourie does not know what is the pulse rate, and also does not

know the pulse of the people."


The current impasse will also continue if TRAI is actually not given the

freedom and independence it deserves. At its helm, it needs to have people who

understand telecom. It should have representation from user groups. And more

important, they should also be guided by a vision, a goal. Industry members have

started saying that TRAI chief consults the minister on every issue. That is a

very wrong impression to get created, if TRAI wants to be strong and effective.

Having said all this, let me once again stress that if things move the way

they are, we will see immense pressure building up from both the sides–the

consumers as well as the industry. The final victim of this would obviously be

the user of telecom.

Because I am not too sure if users’ plight will move the government, let me

add another angle to it. This confusion and uncertainty could cost the minister

his chair, and the government its popularity.