The Guardian October 11, 2000


Indian Telecom sell-off

Since mid-September India's telecommunication system has been in 
disarray. Telephone links between the major cities have been severed. The 
STD system has totally collapsed. In major cities like Delhi and Mumbai 
even local calls cannot be made. Internet users are also facing 
difficulties.

Initially the government explained that the difficulties in reaching 
Calcutta and Bhubaneshwar from Delhi were due to technical snags in the 
national cable network in that sector.

But when the disease spread to other areas and the STD system collapsed all 
over the country the government claimed that striking Telecom workers and 
engineers were sabotaging the network.

However, the fact of the matter is that there is no strike in the Telecom 
sector.

Engineering staff of the Telecommunication Department have resorted to 
"work to rule" agitation to oppose the corporatisation of the Department.

Their agitation is perfectly legitimate and their opposition to 
corporatisation and privatisation of this "core sector" of the national 
economy is well known.

They are not fighting for higher wages or improved working conditions; it 
is a battle to defend the nation's interest.

Privatisation or corporatisation of India's communication industry will 
have far reaching consequences for the country's security.

This point has been repeatedly emphasised by the Indian Communists since 
the right-wing Hindu-nationalist BJP-led NDA government made its intentions 
known to hand over this key sector to private capital, both Indian and 
foreign.

The Vajpayee Government brushed all voices of protest aside. In its mad 
drive to usher in the second generation of so-called economic reforms, it 
is compromising the nation's interest by gradually handing over this vital 
sector to private capital.

In its previous tenure, the BJP Government announced a new telecom policy 
that cost the public exchequer tens of billions of rupees.

The private telecom operators' terms of contract were changed to write off 
that amount from what they were due to pay the government.

It was alleged that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), in which Vajpayee's 
foster son-in-law is a key player, made this change after under-hand 
dealings with the private operators.

In its second innings as well, the Vajpayee Government has specifically 
targeted the telecommunications sector on the advice of the Americans who 
are eager to take over this crucial sector.

Apart from making moves to privatise the telecommunications sector, the 
Vajpayee Government has signed an agreement for data transmission with a 
dubious US research institute that is known to be a conduit for the CIA.

On the eve of his departure for the USA, Vajpayee presided over a cabinet 
meeting that decided to end the monopoly of the public sector 
telecommunications company Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL).

After the cabinet meeting the Communication Minister Ram Vilas Paswan 
shamelessly told the media that the decision had been taken to send "clear 
signals to foreign [read US] investors" about the Indian Government's 
commitment on faster implementation of the second generation of economic 
reforms.

Later, newspapers revealed that the US Mission in India played an important 
role in forcing the Cabinet to make this decision known before the 
departure of the Prime Minister for the USA.

It was to be an important item on the compliance list which the Prime 
Minister carried with him to please the "masters" at the Capitol Hill and 
White House.

The Americans are all set to make a big entry in the Indian communications 
sector  and to ultimately take it over totally.

* * *
New Age, newspaper of Communist Party of India (CPI)

Back to index page