Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, during the Rajya Sabha session on Friday, stated that the government is currently in the process of reviewing the proposals from three telecom companies who are interested in converting their interest on the deferred spectrum as well as Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues into equity. The minister responded to an enquiry made during the question hour asking whether the government has any equity in the private telco – Vodafone by stating that the telecom companies had the one-time opportunity to either pay their interest on AGR dues upfront or convert it in the form of equity.
Why was the One-Time Option Given?
According to a report from PTI, the conversion of payable interest on AGR into equity falls in line with the structural reforms introduced in September of 2021. Ashwini Vaishnaw further informed that this one-time opportunity to pay the dues was given to the telecom companies in order to keep the government’s revenue unaffected. He added that the government had received letters from the three telecom companies who have opted for this option and are already under review. The minister informed that the telecom industry in India has been struggling for a while now, which is evident in the balance sheet of the companies even though currently the telecom sector is witnessing massive growth. Hence, it was necessary to give the telcos a one-time opportunity.
However, it was also recently reported that Tata Teleservices, one of the interested companies, wants to now back out of the giving equity to the government. The telco wants to withdraw as the company had wrongly estimated the dues to be Rs 850 crore which was further revised by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), informing that the actual dues are only Rs 195.2 crore. Since the actual due amount is far too less than estimated, the telecom company should now be able to pay it upfront instead of offering equity to the government.
There were other queries and complaints raised during the session as well. BJP Leader K J Alphons complained about the poor network connectivity in Delhi as well as in his home state Kerala, in response to which Ashwini Vaishnaw suggested registering a complaint before the regulatory body TRAI. Furthermore, BJD leader Sujeet Kumar requested to accelerate the Bharatnet Project in KVK (Krishi Vigyan Kendras) in the districts of Odisha, to which the minister replied that there are 3,933 identified sites in Odisha and requested the BJD leader to approach the government as soon as possible to identify the sites for installation of towers.