‘Stop subsidising the telecom service operators'
With telecom towers guzzling up to Rs.4,300-crore worth of subsidised diesel every year, industry body TEMA has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, suggesting levy of a one-time tax on each tower for using the subsidised fuel for generating power.
“Our submission to the government is to stop subsidising the telecom service operators and telecom tower companies and, instead, introduce appropriate one-time tax per site,” Telecom Equipment Manufacturers' Association (TEMA) Honorary Director-General Ashok K. Aggarwal said in a statement. This would create another source of finance for the Exchequer and ensure that service operators and tower firms started adopting power-efficient infrastructure operating on greener source of energy much faster, he added.
Alleging that the subsidy meant for the rural poor, farmers and bulk transport systems was being ‘mis-utilised', TEMA suggested that a one-time tax per site be levied on all sites owned by mobile operators equivalent to 12 years of subsidy, that is, Rs.10 lakh per site to offset, fully or partially, the loss to the Exchequer on account of subsidy.
Based on the reports, TEMA estimated that in the next five years, there would be around eight lakh telecom towers and the dependency on diesel-based generator sets would increase manifold.
“This, in turn, would mean more subsidy support for the telecom service providers,” Mr. Aggarwal said. He referred to TRAI's recommendations on Green Telecommunications, released last year, which indicated that about 8,760 litres of diesel were being consumed annually by each telecom tower site on the basis of certain assumptions.
“With an average diesel subsidy of about Rs.10 a litre, each year the Central Government is subsidising Rs.4,380 crore to already well off telecom service providers and telecom tower companies,” Mr. Aggarwal said. He added that unless there were strong regulatory guidelines to enforce the withdrawal of diesel subsidy or introduction of an appropriate one-time tax, the existing trends otherwise would result in further consumption of diesel to almost five billion litres in the next five years. No comments from the industry body, representing telecom service providers and tower companies, could be obtained. — PTI