Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea (Vi), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and two other telecom companies had a total debt of Rs 4.17 lakh crore in FY21-22. According to a PTI report, the Parliament was informed about the same on Wednesday. All of these telecom companies have faced cash flow issues because of lower tariffs and high taxes. From the data submitted by Minister for State for Telecom, Devusinh Chauhan, in the Lok Sabha, it was ascertained that the highest debt of Rs 1,91,073.9 crore was of Vodafone Idea. Other telecom companies, including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and BSNL, had a debt of Rs 42,486 crore, Rs 1,03,408.1 crore, and Rs 40,400.13 crore. At the same time, Tata Teleservices and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) had a debt of Rs 20,162 crore and Rs 19,703.84 crore, respectively.
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Chauhan said that the government has approved several structural and procedural reforms to bring healthy competition in the industry along with protecting the interests of the consumers. Back in Sept 2021, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) announced several reforms that were aimed at easing the cash flow issue of the telcos. It also allowed Vodafone Idea to reduce its interest dues by converting it to equity for the Indian government.
After the conversion of the debt into equity, the Indian government has become the largest stakeholder in the telco. The government is also expected to bring some other reforms in the future that would aid the telecom industry in doing business. Industry executives have often said that the telecom industry in India is heavily taxed, and the tariff structure is not sustainable. Both need to change in order to make the industry healthy and powerful. Vodafone Idea still has the largest debt levels amongst all the telecom service providers in the country and is looking for fundraising to reduce some of it.