Govt working on formula to protect telecom health

AGR dues: Govt working formula to protect telecom sector while honouring SC order  

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The Centre is working a formula to strike a balance between compliance of Supreme Court order on adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, protecting telecom industry's health and consumer interest, top official in the government said.

The new formula which will come out soon, will ensure coordination on three aspects -- compliance to SC order and ensuring health of the sector and customer interest, the official told DH.

While refusing to disclose the formula, the official said the telecom companies have made a host of suggestions to protect the interest of the industry as well as the customers, which include allowing them to make staggered payments of AGR dues, waive off interest and penalty on AGR, cut down spectrum usage charges and licence fee.

The government keeps these suggestions in mind while coming out with a comprehensive formula, said the official.

The telecom firms have showed that they were complying with the highest court order and have already paid about Rs 16,000 crore out of Rs 1.42 lakh crore AGR dues. Some of the companies have assured the government to make more payments in coming days, said the official.

The Apex Court ordered the telecom firms to clear their dues before next hearing scheduled on March 17 and having asked the MD and Directors of the companies to present in the court if they failed to do so.

Separately, Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, met Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad here and sought cut in taxes and levies for the sector.

After the meeting, Mittal told reporters that telecom industry is heavily taxed and taxes need to be looked at. The AGR issue also needs to be addressed by the government, he said.

He said Airtel is committed to complying with the Supreme Court order on adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, and asserted that the company will make balance payment "expeditiously".

On the otherhand, Vodafone Idea Limited ( VIL) which is worst hit from the Apex Court order on AGR, paid Rs 1,000 crore more to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) towards its statutory dues.  It has already paid paid Rs 2,500 crore to the government. The company in total owes Rs 53,000 crore to the telecom department.

Separately, the DOT has decided to verify telecom firms’ claims of lesser AGR dues by initiating random 'test checks' before March 17.

The 'test check' will happen for all telecom firms but will start with those claiming they have already made full and final settlement towards their statutory liabilities.

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