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‘Set-top boxes cannot be forced on Kolkata’

Staff Reporter
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Ensuring digitisation can certainly be done, but it cannot be done overnight, says Mamata

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a press conference in Kolkata on Tuesday.Photo: Sushanta Patronobish
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a press conference in Kolkata on Tuesday.Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

On the eve of the deadline for compulsory digitisation of cable television in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced here on Tuesday that she was ready for yet another confrontation with the Centre on the issue.

“Ensuring digitisation can certainly be done, but it cannot be done overnight,” she said, adding that “it was unacceptable, we will not allow it.”

Ms. Banerjee said that at a time when the Centre had already burdened the common man with repeated hikes in fuel prices, restrictions on subsidised LPG cylinders and by withdrawing other subsidies, “the Centre cannot force the people of Kolkata to purchase set-top boxes.”

“The set-top boxes cannot be forced upon the people. The multi-system operators (MSOs) must have the option of providing analogue signals,” she said at a press conference in the State Secretariat.

Hinting at the possibility of vested interests being involved, Ms. Banerjee said the State governments had not been consulted on the matter. She said she had written to the Centre in June, but since she had not received a reply until the eve of the revised deadline, she was forced to speak about it in public.

“Long before setting this deadline, the Centre should have first assessed whether set-top boxes are available in the market. Second, they should have looked into whether the people have the purchasing capacity,” Ms. Banerjee said adding that in Kolkata the Centre should have considered that people would not have money to spare during the festive season.

Mr. Banerjee pointed out that there was a shortage of set-top boxes and people who had the money to spend were not being able to purchase them.

Questioning the motives behind the exercise, she said she had heard that three companies — one domestic firm and two Chinese firms — were the only manufacturers of set-top boxes and had hugely benefited from the switchover.

Ms. Banerjee said that the State governments in Delhi and Maharashtra were Congress-led and so may fall in line with the plans of the Centre, but she would not allow it.

“If you want to ensure digitisation, provide a set top box to every household. You have a lot of money from the 2G scam,” she said.

“We will take to the streets”

“According to estimates, there are 40 lakh television sets in the greater Kolkata region and this decision will affect two crore persons …. If you suddenly disable television viewing for these people, we will take to the streets in Kolkata to protest and take the issue all over the country,” Ms. Banerjee said.

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