Memoranda for Submission to the Chief Ministers of the Two Telugu States.


Atalji’s Remarkable Reforms in Telecom & I.T Sectors

Dt:  27/8/18


Atalji’s Remarkable Reforms

in Telecom & I.T  Sectors


Dr T.H.Chowdary*




Jatasya hi dhruvo mrityurdhruvam janma mrithasyacha

Thasmadapariharyardhe  nathvam sochitumarhasi – B.G 2.27



Death is certain for the  one who is born. Rebirth is  as certain for the  one who died. Therefore, you should not grieve over  what cannot be  avoided.


The passing away of  the Maha Purush, Bharat Ratna Sri Atal Behari Vajpayi ji need not be  a matter of grief as  death is inevitable for everyone but it should be an occasion when  what he stood for ; what he and how he achieved and what lessons  we can  draw from such a  towering person, are thought over to build a prosperous, powerful, intellectual and  ethical Bharat to be a Jagadguru once again. 


2. Sanghatan ( consolidation); Sangharsh ( struggle);   Samrachana (construction);  Samarasata (harmony) and  Sadbhavana  (good will) characterise the life and struggle and achievements of  Vajpayee ji. 


3. While there are several achievements  of Atalji, I will  particularly mention those in the Information Technology  (I.T) and  Telecommunications  sectors where revolutionary reforms were daringly formulated and implemented by Vajpayi ji as  Prime Minister  ( 1998 to 2004).  At the onset of  elections to the  Lok Sabha,  since 1984 I had been preparing a memo as a policy document for incorporation in the  election manifestos of every party in the 


country.  A little mention of it was for the first time included  in the Manifesto of the Congress party in 1984  under Rajiv’s response. The Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) extensively included what I have been proposing in its election manifesto for the 1998 Lok Sabha elections. In the  first week of May 1998, the  Prime Minister  Vajpayi ji decided to constitute the Prime Minister’s National  Task Force on Information  Technology & Software (  PM –NTFIT &SW) . 


4. I was called to Delhi by Advaniji  to whom the   task of constituting the  Task Force was  entrusted by Vajpayi ji. I suggested that   Sri Chandra Babu Naidu should be the Chairman of this  Task Force  as I was already  his  IT Adviser in  A.P   we  have been implementing  path-breaking programs utilising IT and Telecommunication  networks in A.P. Advaniji said, “how can we  make Naidu the  Chairman as he is the kingpin of our opposition, the United Front.”  I submitted that I made it clear to  Sri Naidu that I was in the  TDP, the letters standing for  Telecommunications  Development Party (TDP) and not the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). I was with him  to use the Chief Minister to promote the total  de-regulation of telecommunications,  liberalisation , privatisation and extensive use of IT and software for purposes like e-governance and e-commerce and so on.  If I could get Sri Naidu’s consent would you make him Chairman, I asked. As Advaniji and Vajpayiji and other leaders in the  BJP are  for national  development   transcending  politics Advaniji agreed. I got the consent  of  Sri Naidu and Advaniji got the  consent of  Vajpayiji  to make Naidu   co-Chairman . The NTF consisted of  crusaders for  liberalisation and end of   monopoly in the telecom sector – Sri N Vital, Dr N. Seshagiri, Prof. Indiresan, besides myself and a few chosen  others. The co-option of  Sri Chandra Babu Naidu  of  TDP   into the  Task Force was the beginning  of  his  entry into the  National  Democratic Alliance (NDA) and   partnership with the  BJP in the  1999 and 2004 elections to the  Lok Sabha. The  Task Force, overcoming  the resistance of   the vested  interest in the Department of Telecom (DOT) and statists made 108 recommendations within a  few months of its constitution.  They were accepted  within in  a week of their presentation and  issued  as government policy. The highlights, all under the  inspiration   and commitment of  Sri Vajpayi ji  are:


·         Unlimited number of licences for the provision of internet services in one or many cities or states

·         No licence fee at all; no revenue share

·         Use of  wireless by service  providers to pick up  customers

·         Interconnection to the worldwide internet   networks by the  licenced companies through VSAT (very small aperture  terminals), earth stations of  the  communication satellite systems).


5. This meant the total by-pass of the  telecom  networks of both  DOT and the   cell telephone companies Telcos.    The policy was commended as the  democratisation  of  knowledge and  universal affordability by even the  poor.   Sri Vajpayi ji, both at the first and the last meeting of the  Taskforce was very happy that his vision is reflected in the  report. He particularly  thanked us .


6. The second  revolutionary  decision of Vajpayiji is  was what has come to be  known as   National  Telecom Policy- ’99 (NTP-99). The NTP 1994 promulgated by Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao brought  private  companies (P-Telcos) into the provision of mobile radio  telephony imposed  the  most obnoxious condition of  the licencees paying  huge  licence  fees  even before they constructed  the  network, got  subscribers and revenues. They were bleeding. The  loans that they took  from banks   for construction of the network could not be  serviced.  The price for the   mobile  telephony was fixed by the  policy maker  - licensor - operator DOT itself at Rs. 16 per mnt ,   the caller as well as the  called party paying. The P-Telcos  contrasted their  license  conditions with those of the  Internet  Service Providers (ISPs).  They wanted to be bailed out.  We suggested that those  licence  conditions should be modified by a new policy. They should be migrated to revenue sharing instead of  upfront payment of the licence  fees. Vajpay ji immediately  and very easily understood the  logic – let there be  chicks, let them grow, let them lay eggs , let them turn out to be  golden, we will have a share of them”.  The P-Telcos  were migrated from  crippling upfront  huge licence fee payment regime to one of  revenue  sharing.  The prices for service crashed from Rs. 16  to 50  paise per mnt and the called party need not to pay.  The Opposition especially the communists alleged  a scam  -  the  P-Telcos paid  bribes to get the new policy.   The government is put to loss of thousands of crores of  Rupees. Atal ji remained unmoved. We said that when there was  amrutha manthan ( churning of the  Ocean for the nectar) poison came  before amrita (nectar) . Just as Lord Shiva   contained the  poison in his throat and allowed  the nectar to  come, Vajpayi ji  unmoved  by slanderous accusations implemented the NTP-99 that laid the foundation for the  rapid   take up of mobile telephone in this country. The NTP –‘99  of Sri Atal Behari Vajpayi and  later developments   made me realise  my slogan, haath haath mein telephone; gaon gaon mein internet


7. Today, we have  116 crore    mobile telephones for a  130 cr population.  And the prices have so come down that the  poor, even beggars are  able to afford  telephone and other telecom services.


8. The third  revolutionary reform that Vajpayi ji brought about was  the removal  of inequality  in the competition between  P-Telcos   and the   government’s  DOT.  The DOT   is the policy maker, licensor and service provider ; deprived of its   privileges  it was obstructing    in  several  ways the growth of the P-Telcos and their services .  The National Long Distance    Dialling  (NSD) and  International  Subscriber   Dialling  (ISD) were still the  monopoly    of the DOT. These require only 16% of  the investment in the  network but they produce  two thirds  of the revenues.  In order to  bring about   out a level -playing  field between the  P-Telcos  and the DOTs  telecom services  we proposed and  Vajpayji agreed that   the DOT’s telecoms services   should  be constituted into a  state -owned  company and that it’s STD and ISD   monopoly should be ended and that  the PSU should compete in the provision  of  every type of  service P-Telcos offer .  How this was brought about is a masterpiece of planning.   The  Communication   Minister, a coalition   partner, the  officers and the  unionised workers as well as the leftist  parties were bitterly opposed.  We suggested that there should be a  Chief Minister ‘s conference to deliberate only  one matter the  further expansions of every type of  telecom & IT service in the country . On the  15 of July  2000 the Chief Minister’s  Conference was held in Delhi.    I, as  crusader for  total  telecom de-monopolisation,  met with   Chief Ministers Jyothi Basu and Karunanidhi from whom bitter criticism  could be forthcoming . Sri Naidu was assisted to make a presentation  . He did  bring out what is involved and what further is required  for larger and quicker  penetration of the IT & telecoms services.  At the end of it  Sri Karuna Nidhi   blasted the DOT .  Vajpayi ji immediately concluded the meeting  saying  nothing  but the following, “ I have decided  to constitute the services of the  DOT into a state-owned corporation  effective from  2nd Oct 2000 .    The   DOT’s monopoly   on national long distance and international   dialling will be ended  from that  date.  The telecom PSU   could enter into   competitive  provision of every  type of  service the P-Telcos are giving “. Immediately  thereafter, he left the meeting. The Communications   Minister Sri Ram Vilas Paswan and  Secretary   of  the DOT Sri  Shyamal Ghosh  were   stunned ; so were   the  Chief Ministers . The strategy was if he  stayed on, there would be endless discussions and a committee would  have been asked for and agreed.  Committee means  delay and no decision. This whole  thing was pre-planned . That  was the   stunning finale   to the process of  total liberalisation of telecom & IT services  that was started by the first Bharatiya  Pradhan Manthri, Sri PV Narasimha Rao  by his National Telecom Policy 1994 .  It is these two Bharatiya  Pradhana Manthris  who   determinedly,  even as their parties were minority  in the Lok Sabha,  deftly and wisely steered through  the NTPs 1994 and 1999. If today    India’s  information and telephone services    are ubiquitous and  affordable by the   common man.  The credit must go to   the Bharatiyata -inspired Prime Ministers Naramsimha Rao and  Atal Behari Vajpayi ji.  I feel fulfilled that my   more than  four decades   long    (since  1967) struggle   from  within and outside the DOT could  democratise  and  “peoplesify”  ( this is the phrase I used instead of privatise) the telecom and information and software services  companies are  earning   120 bln  (Rs. 8,40,000) per year  in  foreign  exchange .  They are  providing  jobs   directly  for 5 mln  graduates  and   indirectly  for  about   three  times  more  persons .


9. Atalji  created a Disinvestment  Ministry with Sri Arun Shourie as the   cabinet  minister.  During   Ataljis’ tenure,  16 PSUs were disinvited.   VSNL (of which I was the  founding Chairman  & Managing Director) and the Hindustan Teleprinters in the     telecom sectors,  together  with     BALCO , IPCL, Hindustan Zinc, Modern Foods etc.,  were disinvested.   Great projects like  Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana, ( 55 lakh kmts) ; national connectivity  through National Highways ; National   Power  Grid ; National Telecom Networks; Anthyodaya ; National Commission for  Farmers;  Sarva Siksha Abhyan; the 86th amendment to the constitution  in Dec 2002 legislating   the   Right to Education;   the FRBM Act of  Aug 2003 ,   demonopolisation  of insurance  sector and  permitting FDI in life insurance business  ; the Electricity Act of 2003 opening the power sector   for private  companies     and the  most impressive  assertion of India’s   prowess in science   & technology by carrying out the  nuclear test Pokhran-2 in May  1998 itself are  some of the most outstanding   achievements  of Atal Behari Vajpayi ji .   Advaniji and Vajpayji  were  a duo like Nara and Narayana.  Amit Shah and Narendra Modi are in their image. We should  deserve that   legacy and build up on it. This can be the  greatest  tribute we can  pay to this  great son of Bharat.


10. The Pragna Bharati of the  two Telugu states  is happy to recall that Atalji was felicitated by it at a large public meeting in Hyderabad in 1993 for his  successful negation of  Pakistan‘s charge of  human rights  violation by India  in J&K.  He led India’s delegation to the  special session of the  Human Rights Commissions of the United Nations in Geneva. Pakistan was discomfited when its resolution was defeated. Pragna Bharati was blessed by Atalji a second time, when in Hyderabad  on 11th Jan 1996 he inaugurated the  Vivek 1996, the  two-day Youth  Convention organised  by Pragna Bharati jointly with  Vivekananda Yuva Kendra. ( 2,035 words)