No need now for TRAI to fix telecom tariff: TDSAT

The tribunal’s remarks came on two petitions filed by Telecom Users Group of India and an individual requesting the tribunal to direct TRAI to fix the tariff and to regulate the pre-paid services. According to them, there were several complex tariff structures floated by the service providers and TRAI should rationalise it to a few plans only

New Delhi: With telecom tariff ruling as low as Re1 due to competition in the market, the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on Monday said there was no need at present for regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to fix tariffs and it should leave this to market forces, reports PTI.

“The consumer groups contend that TRAI should frame tariff. This tribunal is, however, of the opinion that TRAI having prescribed forbearance (operators are free to fix tariffs), no direction at this stage should be issued,” said a TDSAT bench headed by its chairman justice SB Sinha.

TDSAT, however, said that the regulator must take steps to make consumers aware of their rights.

The tribunal also said, “In the event the TRAI determines that there would be only one (tariff) plan, the scope of multiplicity of plans would become non-existent.”

It further said, “We have noticed that the consultative process is over. It is expected that the TRAI would take a decision one way or the other at an early date and possibly within a month or so. Only in the event, certain deficiencies are found out, the question of examining the same by this tribunal would arise,” it added.

The issues raised by consumer groups by and large are covered by the consultation papers and draft regulations circulated by the TRAI and, thus, require no further consideration at this stage.

The tribunal’s remarks came on two petitions filed by Telecom Users Group of India and an individual.

They have requested the tribunal to direct TRAI to fix the tariff and to regulate the pre-paid services. According to them, there were several complex tariff structures floated by the service providers and TRAI should rationalise it to a few plans only.

According to the organisations, TRAI permits 25 tariff plans for each of the operators. VAS (Internet Data) was not regulated by the TRAI and electronic recharge does not have any transparency as the consumers are not informed as to the bill given by them while recharging, they said.

However, it was opposed by TRAI by saying that it was incorrect that it had not been performing its duties in terms of the tariff orders. So far, as latest increase of 20% hike, it has already sought for justifications from the operators, said TRAI.

“So far as a complex tariffs issue is concerned, the numbers of plans are only 27 for GSM operators and 12 for CDMA operators and, thus, it is incorrect to contend that as many as 125 plans are in circulation," TRAI had said.

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PMO wants fertiliser ministry to expedite urea decontrol policy

The decontrol proposal is being pushed by the finance ministry and the Planning Commission, as they are concerned over big subsidy bill on fertiliser, which was estimated at Rs52,840 crore in 2010-11 with almost half of which was on account of urea

New Delhi: Amid inter-ministerial differences over the decontrol of urea prices, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the fertiliser ministry to expedite the proposed policy, reports PTI.

“The PMO has directed the fertiliser ministry to accelerate the urea decontrol policy,” sources said.

On 5th August, the Group of Ministers on fertiliser, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, had referred the proposed urea decontrol policy to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for approval as there was strong opposition from various ministries.

In the GoM, it was agreed that views of all concerned ministries on the issue would be sent to the CCEA, which would take a final call, source said.

The direction from the PMO comes in the wake of delay on the part of the fertiliser ministry to move the Cabinet note.

According to sources, fertiliser minister MK Azhagiri has not yet cleared the note prepared by the Department of Fertilisers.

The minister is opposing the proposed policy contending that the decontrol of urea sector would lead to rise in prices of the important farm nutrient.

Before the GoM, Mr Azhagiri had written to prime minister Manmohan Singh, opposing decontrol of the widely-used fertiliser. He had said the move should wait till amendment to the new investment policy for the sector is brought about.

Besides the fertiliser, agriculture and petroleum and natural gas ministries, the commerce ministry was also opposed to the move to free urea from price controls.

The proposal is, however, being pushed by the finance ministry and the Planning Commission, as they are concerned over big subsidy bill on fertiliser. In 2010-11, it was estimated at Rs52,840 crore, almost half of which was on account of urea.

Urea is the only fertiliser that remains under full price control. The government had freed prices of phosphatic and potash fertilisers in the last fiscal.

Under the draft policy prepared by the Committee of Secretaries, a partial freeing of the retail price of urea was proposed. It also proposed that with the partial decontrol kicking in, the industry can hike prices by 10% after a year.

The agriculture ministry does not want the prices to escalate. It feels the decontrol could wait for 2-3 years, sources said. At present, MRP (maximum retail price) of urea is Rs5,310 a tonne.

Currently, the domestic production is stagnant at 21-22 million tonnes as against demand of 27-28 million tonnes.

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Financial Technologies seeks 6-month extension for MCX stake stale

FTIL has sought extension till March 2012 as it is in the process of divesting the stake in the Multi Commodity Exchange through an initial public offer (IPO) of the commodity exchange

New Delhi: Financial Technologies India (FTIL) has approached the consumer affairs ministry seeking extension by six months to dilute its stake in the commodity exchange MCX to 26%, reports PTI.

The deadline for dilution of the stake expired on 30th September.

"FTIL has sought extension till March 2012 as it is in the process of divesting the stake in the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) through an initial public offer (IPO) of the commodity exchange," a senior consumer affairs ministry told PTI.

FTIL, the promoter of MCX, holds 31% in the commodity exchange.

The company has to dilute its stake to 26% in MCX to conform with the new guidelines prescribed by the commodity markets regulator Forward Markets Commission (FMC) on the equity structure for the national commodity exchange.

Last month, MCX had received the approval of the market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for its Draft Red Herring Prospectus (DRHP) for an IPO.

MCX has got 12 months time from the date of the clearance of the DRHP by SEBI to launch an IPO.

Under the offer, some existing shareholders of MCX, including FTIL, plan to sell 6.4 million shares, constituting 12.6% of the company's paid-up equity capital.

MCX holds a market share of over 75% of the Indian commodity futures market. It offers futures trading in both agriculture and non-agriculture items.

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