Pulls up DoT for not getting an assurance from Rural Development Ministry

A Parliamentary committee has asked the Rural Development Ministry not to debar those having telephone connections from inclusion in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) list as it could have negative impact on the growth of rural tele-density. It has criticised the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for not getting an assurance from the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) for non-inclusion of telephone connection in the methodology for carrying out the BPL 2011 Census.

Pointing out that though there was no direct mention of having phone in the list of items that debars a person from entering the BPL list, the Standing Committee on Information Technology has said that in its BPL Census 2002 that was conducted in 2004, Karnataka had mentioned telephone connection as one of the parameters while applying for BPL cards. It expressed apprehensions that same the parameter could be adopted by the Centre and other State governments.

“The Committee observes that in case where a person having telephone connection as is evident from the practice in Karnataka is debarred from the BPL list, to achieve the desired level of tele-density in rural areas may be a big problem. The Committee finds that this is a serious matter which could have got the attention of the DoT suo motu,” the Committee said in its report.

Lambasting the DoT for not bothering to get the clear-cut position from the MRD on the issue, the Committee asked it to take up the matter with the Ministry, particularly when the methodology for the proposed forthcoming BPL 2011 Census is being finalised.

Earlier also in its 8th Report on Demands for Grants 2010-11, the Standing Committee recommended that the issue regarding debarring a person from the BPL list on possessing a telephone connection should be taken up by the DoT with the MRD t and the State governments.

“When the issue was pursued further during the examination of Demands for Grants of the year 2011-12, the (Communications and IT) Ministry has taken up the matter with the Ministry of Rural Development. As per the status report given by the MRD, the position is not very clear,” the Committee added.

Falling tariffs

The boost in tele-density in recent years has been mainly due to falling mobile tariffs due to intense competition between mobile operators and also preference among consumers for pre-paid connections that requires recharge of connections once in six months by paying a nominal amount. Overall tele-density, which is an important indicator of telecom penetration in the country, has grown from 2.32 per cent in March 1999 to 12.7 per in March 2006, 52.74 per cent in March 2010, 62.51 per cent in October 2010 and 74 per cent in June 2011. The rural tele-density that was above 1.21 per cent in March 2002 increased to 24.31 per cent in March 2010, 29.25 per cent in October 2010 and 33 per cent by June 2011.