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Minister for Communications and IT

Minister for Communication (26 May, 2014 – 06 July, 2016)

Ravi Shankar Prasad served as the Communication Minister for little over two years in the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Though this was a short stint, given the diversity, spread and challenges India’s communication sector entails. However, sincere efforts and focused work done by him as a Minister yielded some really encouraging results that are briefly mentioned as under:

  • Most Successful Auction of Telecom Spectrum : Allocation of telecom spectrum had witnessed corruption and controversies during UPA government headed by Dr. Man Mohan Singh leading to legal battles. Ensuring a fair and transparent auction of telecom spectrum after taking over as Telecom Minister was indeed an uphill task for the NDA government led by PM Narendra Modi. Spectrum auction of 2015 was the most successful spectrum auction in India that fetched Rs. 1.10 Crore of revenues to the Government of India and all this happened without any controversy.
  • Policies That Fueled Telecom Sector Growth : Many policies that were pending for years were cleared between 2014-2016, which led to fast growth of India’s telecom sector between this period. Spectrum Trading, Spectrum Sharing, Spectrum Liberalization, Defence Band Identification, Virtual Network Operator, Full Mobile Number Portability and Policy for Sharing of Active and Passive Telecom Infrastructure were some major policy initiatives. These policies resulted in massive growth in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in telecom sector. Total FDI in telecom sector of India between April, 2012 to March, 2014 was $ 1.6 Billion, which increased to $ 4.09 Billion between April, 2014 to February, 2016.
  • Massive Growth in Telecom Connections : During the two years of 2014-2016, India witnessed massive addition of telecom connections. Between April, 2012 to February, 2014, India’s telecom sector was witnessing a very negative growth as it lost nearly 1.83 Crore telecom connections. Due to policy initiatives and transparency measures between April 2014- February 2016, net growth in telecom connections was 12 Crore. Total mobile phone connections that stood at 90.45 Crore in March, 2014 increased to 102.71 Crore in February, 2016. India’s Mobile phone tele density increased from 72.94% to 80.95% between March, 2014 and February, 2016.
  • Full Mobile Number Portability Introduced : For the first time in India, full mobile number portability was introduced. Before this the mobile number portability permitted the customer to change their service provider only within their telecom circle. It was not possible to retain the same mobile number if the user shifted from one telecom circle to another circle. Full mobile number portability, for the first time, allowed Indian mobile phone users to retain the same mobile even when they shifted to any part of the country.
  • Transforming BSNL : Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), India’s largest public sector telecom service provider suffered heavy losses during the ten years of UPA rule (2004-2014). When the NDA government led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee left office in 2004, BSNL recorded profits worth Rs. 10,000 Crore. When UPA government headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh left office in 2014, BSNL was suffering loss of Rs. 8,000 Crore. It was indeed an uphill task to revive this sick public sector undertaking when the private sector telecom players had acquired significant market share and enjoyed huge customer base. However, an honest effort to revive BSNL was made between 2014-2016, which had started yielding encouraging results. Between 2014-15, BSNL registered operating profits of Rs. 672 Crore and this increased to around Rs. 2,000 Crore (unaudited figures) in the year 2015-16. Overall growth of BSNL in February, 2016 reached 1.67%, which was double the industry growth rate of 0.85%. BSNL also started acquiring customers at a much faster rate between 2014-16. In March 2015 BSNL was adding 8 Lakh customers per month, which increased to 23 Lakh customers per month in March, 2016.
  • Bharat Net : Ambitious project to connect all the 250,000 village clusters or Gram Panchayats by high speed optical fiber network was initiated by UPA government in 2011. However, in the first three years i.e. 2011-2014 only 358 Kilometers of optical fiber was laid. Narendra Modi government made certain technological enhancements in this project and expedited implementation of this project as Bharat Net. Between July, 2014 to May, 2016 1,15,783 Kilometers of optical fiber was laid and nearly 50,732 Gram Panchayats were connected.
  • Firm Stand on Net Neutrality : Net Neutrality became an issue of grave importance across the world. The government of PM Narendra Modi took a firm stand on this way before developed countries could settle this debate. Telecom Ministry headed by Ravi Shankar Prasad decided that access to free and fair internet is non-negotiable and therefore any compromise with neutrality of Internet as a medium of communication cannot be compromised. This decision of government of India settled the debate on net neutrality in India.
  • Speed Post Services of India Post Gained Momentum : Express mail delivery system of India Post called the Speed Post gained significant momentum during 2014-16. Speed Post revenues jumped from Rs. 1372 Crore in 2013-14 to Rs. 1600 Crore in 2015-16. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its report had adjudged Speed Post as the best express mail delivery service across India.
  • Introduction of eCommerce in India Post : Declining revenues of India from mails due to advent of emails and instant messengers was a cause of concern. In order to improve the health of India Post, the Narendra Modi government decided to develop India Post as a vibrant logistics service provider to India rapidly growing eCommerce sector. This yielded encouraging results. Total amount collected from Cash on Delivery of eCommerce Parcel of India post was only Rs. 100 Crore in 2013-14, which increased to Rs. 500 Crore in 2014-15 and reached Rs. 1300 Crore in 2015-16.
  • Banking Service At Post Offices : India Post was offering banking service in terms of small savings, however it’s banking services were not at par with other commercial banks. With an intention of leveraging the vast network of India Post across India for financial inclusion, the Narendra Modi government granted payment bank license to India Post. Its banking operations were brought on digital core banking platform allowing account holders to operate their accounts from any branch in the country. There were only 230 core banking branches of India Post in May, 2014 which increased to 22,137 branches in May, 2016. There were only 4 India Post ATMs in May 2014, which increased to 942 ATMs in May, 2016.