Union Minister of State for Telecommunications Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre Thursday said setting up of 1-1.25 lakh digital villages, improving network quality and revival of BSNL and MTNL are his top priorities. "We have to set up 1-1.25 lakh digital villages this year. Second, we have to improve quality (of services) like call drops and (put in place) revival plan for BSNL and MTNL," Dhotre told reporters on sidelines of a Broadband India Forum event.
In the interim budget, the government said there are more than three lakh common service centres operating across the country delivering government services that are available digitally to people in rural areas and helping the government create digital villages.
The government had announced that it will create 1 lakh digital villages in the next five years.
Then finance minister Piyush Goyal had unveiled the government's vision for 2030 while presenting the interim budget in which digital technologies will play a pivotal role.
Goyal had said the digital infrastructure in the digital economy of 2030 will be built upon successes achieved in recent years in digitisation of government processes and private transactions.
When asked by when a proposal on revival of loss-making telecom sector firms BSNL and MTNL will be placed before Cabinet, Dhotre said that "within 3-4 months".
Both companies have also sought spectrum for 4G services through equity infusion from the government.
BSNL, which has the lowest debt of Rs 14,000 crore among all telecom operators, has sought 4G spectrum across India through equity infusion of Rs 7,000 crore. The total spectrum will cost the firm Rs 14,000 crore.
The government-owned companies have also been ailing because of high revenue-to-debt ratio due to a high number of government employees that were transferred by the Department of Telecommunications to them at the time of their formation. BSNL has 1.76 lakh employees across India and MTNL has 22,000 employees.
MTNL has sought a refund of the interest that it paid for broadband wireless access spectrum which it was given by the government and asked to pay the price that was determined in auctions held in 2010.
Both the state-owned telecom firms have asked for permissions to monetise their land assets as well as the voluntary retirement scheme for employees on the Gujarat model. Under the Gujarat model, an amount equivalent to 35 days of salary for each completed year of service, and 25 days of salary for each year of service left till retirement is offered.
The voluntary retirement scheme for BSNL and MTNL will have a revenue impact of Rs 6,365 crore and Rs 2,120 crore, respectively.