Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu Minister Manikandan loses job over cable TV tariff spat

Minister Information Technology M. Manikandan (centre) during the National Handloom Day festival at Emaneswaram near Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district on August 7, 2019. Later in the day Mr. Manikandan was sacked.

Minister Information Technology M. Manikandan (centre) during the National Handloom Day festival at Emaneswaram near Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district on August 7, 2019. Later in the day Mr. Manikandan was sacked.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami drops Dr. Manikandan from his Cabinet hours after the latter accused Mr. Palaniswami of unilaterally slashing monthly tariff collected by Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation from households.

A Raj Bhavan communique said Governor Banwarilal Purohit had accepted the Chief Minister’s recommendation.

This is the first time that Mr. Palaniswami has dropped a Minister from the Cabinet. Earlier, he had undertaken a minor reshuffle of the ministry. Mr. Udhayakumar briefly held the IT portfolio when Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister in 2011.

Dr. Manikandan said Amma (Jayalalithaa) wanted to distribute set-top boxes (STB) free of cost and fix the monthly tariff at ₹70 but the government declined to bear the cost of STBs. “When we approached the government to bear the cost of STBs, the then Finance Secretary and present Chief Secretary K. Shanmugam declined to accept. As a result, we repaid ₹400 crore of the total debt (towards providing free STBs) of ₹619 crore from our (TACTV) revenue. When we were in distress, neither the government nor anyone came to our rescue. If the government comes forward to provide the balance of ₹219 crore or gives the amount as loan, we can even fix the Arasu Cable tariff at ₹100 a month,” he said.

Dr. Manikandan said that the decision to reduce the cable TV monthly subscription was taken by the Chief Minister. “I was not consulted. The Chief Minister announced it. A meeting will happen soon,” he said.

The IT Minister had joined issue with Mr. Radhakrishnan, who was re-appointed TACTV Chairman on July 22, over a statement made by the latter that action would be taken against private cable TV operators who do not provide Arasu Cable TV’s STBs to consumers if they want one. Dr Manikandan, who appeared upset over Mr. Radhakrishnan’s recent appointment, said the latter should first shift two lakh subscribers who are currently under his cable TV network to Arasu Cable.

“He is well versed in cable operations because he runs a cable TV company. It seems he has said that those who had shifted from Arasu Cable to private networks must be immediately shifted back. These things cannot be done overnight,” Mr. Manikandan said.

He said the Animal Husbandry Minister was running a cable network called Akshaya Cable. “Instead of asking others to shift, he should first shift the two lakh subscribers he has to Arasu Cable. He can advise others after that. If he gives away those two lakh subscribers, Arasu Cable will get enough revenue,” the IT Minister, under whose jurisdiction TACTV operates, said.

Dr. Manikandan pointed out that he was a qualified surgeon, but could not perform surgeries now as he was a Minister. “I cannot be a minister and go and do the other job as well. It won’t be right,” he said, hinting at a conflict of interest in Mr. Radhakrishnan’s position as Chairman of TACTV.

Mr. Radhakrishnan, during a review meeting recently in Tiruppur, said 11 lakh STBs provided by Arasu Cable had been switched off. These needed to be brought back online as Arasu Cable had now brought down its tariffs.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 12:41:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tamil-nadu-minister-manikandan-loses-job-over-cable-tv-tariff-spat/article28873409.ece

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