Financial Daily
from THE HINDU group of publications

Tuesday, August 07, 2001



Opinion | Prev

W(i)LL Paswan's dream come true?

G. Srinivasan

FOR the feisty Communications Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, any overt attack on his pet subjects, such as providing rural people with Wireless in Local Loop (WLL) telephone at inexpensive rates, is to be met with equal vehemence. This he demonstrated in ample measure when Opposition members, led by Congress leaders such as Mr Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, and the party's Deputy Leader in the House, Mr Madhavrao Scindia, raked up the matter during question hour in the Lok Sabha.

Mr Dasmunshi sought to know from the Minister why no tender system was implemented for allocation of spectrum under WLL unlike in the case of cellular telephony. The Minister responded that WLL is based on fixed line principle and any number of players c an enter the fray, and that it is meant to ensure higher rollout of the facility for a larger number of population, particularly in the rural areas.

When the BSP member, Mr Rashdi Alvi, sought to know whether the WLL technology could be converted into cellular telephony later, the Minister scarcely suppressed his rage, stating that any other future government could do such a thing as ``we have no int ention to do so''.

Not satisfied with this response, some members charged the Minister of not displaying the requisite transparency in the award of WLL contracts and that such open opaqueness in policy matters would invite controversy and all type of accusations; the Minis ter lost his cool and stated that ``he did not need certificate from such members.'' He further contended that those who oppose WLL are enemies of the people, a charade the Minister is always proud to proclaim.

However, Mr Scindia cautioned the Minister not to lose his temper as other members too shared his sympathy for the rural people, though there might be difference in the approach to usher in such facilities for the rural people.

Mr Paswan wondered aloud that in view of the rich potentials of WLL and its vast outreach, most State governments

hailed it. He further elaborated that spectrum allocation for WLL might be based on first-cum-first-served formula but that does not mean it is free from any specific conditions. He said there are certain well-laid procedures such as an assigned proporti on to urban, semi-urban and rural areas so that the utility of the WLL technology could be universal.

For the Minister who takes pride in wearing the badge of a mass leader from the most backward State, Bihar, the WLL telephony appears to be a golden opportunity to entrench himself as a man of the moment at this hour of the country's development.

Naturally, he does not stomach any challenge to his deep-seated conviction on the WLL technology's redeeming power as a socio-economic instrument to transform the very topography and texture of rural India. But, unfortunately, other members of the House do not share this evangelical zeal for the weal of the poor who, in their view, deserve other desiderata of life such as roti, kapda, and a roof over their enfeebled existence in these days of free market economy.

Related links:
BSNL to test-launch WLL services by Aug
Cong terms frequency allocation process as `first-come-first-loot'
Limited mobility issue to be discussed threadbare

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