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Current Affairs for today- 24th October 2019

October 24 2019 GS Paper II Revival of government telecom operators- BSNL, MTNL Context The government announced a massive revival package to...

Manasa Sastry Written by Manasa Sastry · 6 min read >

October 24 2019

GS Paper II

Revival of government telecom operators- BSNL, MTNL

Context

The government announced a massive revival package to nurse the bleeding Public Sector telecommunication industries- BSNL and MTNL. The Cabinet has rolled out its approval for providing 4G spectrum worth Rs 12,000 Cr through administrative allotment. The two companies shall be merged and their total assets will be monetized to make a bag of Rs 38,000 Cr.

The debt that the state-owned telecom industries – making up of about 14% market share in mobile business-will be restructured by raising bonds with sovereign guarantee worth Rs 15,000 Cr and a voluntary retirement scheme on an outlay of  Rs 30,000 Cr.

Background

India is also the second-largest country in terms of internet subscribers and the world’s second-largest telecommunications market, with around 1,183.53 million telephone subscriber bases at the end of May 2019. The telecom market can be split into three segments – wireless, wireline and internet services. 

Key points of the revival package

  1. BSNL and MTNL will account for 65% of the total wireline subscriber base and around 10% of the total wireless subscribers.
  2. The monetization of their total assets comprising of large swathes of land, telecom towers, equipment, etc., shall be channelled to raise resources for retiring debt, servicing of bonds, network upgradation, expansion and operational fund requirements.
  3. To make the PSUs more competitive on the field, they are being provided with access to 4G spectrum.
  4. Through an attractive VRS package, they are helping the two firms to retire a large number of employees through the Rs 30,000 Cr that will be borne by the government.
  5. With these steps, they come at par with the OPEX, CAPEX and other requirements that will help them revitalize and restructure their debt.
  6. BSNL and MTNL are expected to turn Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortization (EBITDA) to be productive in the next two years.
  7. Through the administrative allotment of the 4G spectrum for services to the PSU firms, broadband and other data services will be supplied through an infusion of capital of Rs 20,140 Cr that is included in the Rs 70,000 Cr package.

What went wrong with BSNL and MTNL?

  • It is purported that the once shining jewels of the government’s PSU line-up have caused a drain on the exchequer for the last decade as they have failed to keep pace with the technological innovations and the private players on the field.
  • They lost subscribers, their landline numbers started shrinking and their operations ultimately dwindled.
  • The manpower has been a major drawback of the firms which accounts for around 70% of the cost compared to the other telecom players that are only about 5%.

Under proper scrutiny, the following points can be inferred (Opinions limited to self after verification through the ground reality)

  1. It cannot be thoroughly blamed on the human resource cost that the firms have incurred immense losses over the years, as they did not receive enough support from the government in the initial years of loss.
  2. There have been instances of internal corruption in the Department of Telecom and the bureaucrats that must have naturally involved in a nexus to back up the private players, naturally sinking the PSUs.
  3. The constant complaining of poor quality customer service and operation is due to lack of timely sanctions and letter of credit to BSNL and MTNL that ultimately locked them out of the market.
  4. The predatory pricing of the private players, providing attractive freebies for an extended period of time than what is incorporated in the rule book has damaged the face of the PSUs to an irreversible extent.
  5. The government must patronize its children rather than partnering with the private companies and sinking the PSU ship which already raised complaints of unfair practices in the telecom sector.
  6. There must be the provision of the state-owned firms to take up individual decisions to raise the bandwidth of data and voice, optical fibre lines, operations, loans from the financial institutions rather than being a poodle red taping what the higher rungs of corrupted leaders command.

GS Paper II, Paper III

PSLV missions to carry 14 small foreign satellites

Context

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) bagged orders from four international customers to ride as extra payloads on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

What’s in the news?

ISRO has three space missions lined up for the next couple months- PSLV-C47, PSLV-C48 and PSLV-C49 that has tagged along 3 new foreign customers- Analytical Space, iQPS and Kleos Space apart from the existing Spire Global.

The payloads will launch on the PSLV’s – C47, C48 and C49 that are scheduled to launch in November and December 2019 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (an Aerospace Company in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh).

What do we need to know?

  1. Cartosat-3 is the main payload on ISRO’s PSLV- C47.
    It is an earth observation or remote sensing satellite that provides for advanced and better spatial and spectral characteristics compared to its previous series. It will have better pictures and strategic applications.
  2. PSLV is lending its platform for the testing of new antenna technology that will enable faster access to satellite data, including for strategic communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
  3. An all-weather, 24/7 observation of earth through the revolutionary synthetic aperture radar microsatellite being tested.
  4. Three Scouting Mission satellites are to be launched on C49
  5. Lemur nanosatellites are also in line for launch for enabling earth and sea observations, aviation and weather forecast and monitoring.

PSLV: The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is an expendable medium-lift launch vehicle designed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). PSLV is a four-staged launch vehicle with first and third stage using solid rocket motors and second and fourth stages using liquid rocket engines.

  • PSLV is the third generation launch vehicle of India. It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be equipped with liquid stages. After its first successful launch in October 1994, PSLV emerged as the reliable and versatile workhorse launch vehicle of India with 39 consecutively successful missions by June 2017. During 1994-2017 period, the vehicle has launched 48 Indian satellites and 209 satellites for customers from abroad.
  • The vehicle successfully launched two spacecraft – Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013 – that later travelled to Moon and Mars respectively
  • PSLV earned its title ‘the Workhorse of ISRO‘ through consistently delivering various satellites to Low Earth Orbits, particularly the IRS series of satellites.
  • Designed mainly to deliver the “earth-observation” or “remote-sensing” satellites, its lift-off mass of up to about 1750 Kg to Sun-Synchronous circular polar orbits of 600-900 Km altitude.

GS Paper II

PM Modi skips NAM summit again

Context

The 19th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Baku, Azerbaijan on October 25-26 2019 shall be attended by the Vice-President of India, M Venkaiah Naidu.

What do we need to know?

NAM: Non-Aligned Movement

  • The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is the biggest forum for political coordination and consultation after and within the United Nations, composed by 120 Member States from the developing world that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. There are also 17 countries and 10 International Organizations that hold an Observer status.
  • NAM was officially established in 1961, at the Belgrade Summit.
  • It is led by a Chair that rotates every three years, currently, Venezuela, assisted by Iran and Azerbaijan.
  • After the discussions triggered during the Afro-Asian Conference of 1955, hosted by President Sukarno, “Bandung Principles” in was adopted in 1956 by the founding members- India, Indonesia, Yogoslavia, Egypt and others.
  • It was established amidst the collapse of the colonial system and the emancipatory struggle of the oppressed peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and other regions of the world, and at the heights of the Cold War.
  • It was made into a movement by the historic fathers with a view to avoiding the bureaucratic implications of an International Organization.

Theme for 2019– Promotion and Consolidation of Peace through Respect for International Law.

Objectives

  • Enabling the decision-making capacity of all the developing countries in global and political processes without differentiation or discrimination.
  • Strengthening of international peace and security, within the framework to establish a more peaceful and prosperous world.
  • Key factor in the processes of decolonization to achieve freedom and independence of many Third World countries to create an independent path in world politics and not be mere pawns between major powers.
  • An additional goal is facilitating a restructuring of the international economic order.
  •  To ensure national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony but to work in moderation with all the big powers.
  • To promote peaceful coexistence between nations, regardless of their political, social or economic systems.
  • Opposition to apartheid; non-adherence to multilateral military pacts.
  • Total rejection of aggression as a dangerous and serious breach of International Law and abide by the UN Charter.

Changing geo-political situation in the world and NAM:

  1. The world is moving towards bi-polarity, one led by US and other by China-Russia.  Ex: Syria, a war victim even in the 21st Century where US and Russia are trying to man the show.
  2. Unstable regimes, ethnic cleansing and other migrations and concerned conflicts are rampant in different parts of the world.
  3. Escalating tension in Indo-pacific and South-Asian region due to China’s assertive, dominant and expansionist policies.
  4. Issue of detrimental peaks of global climate change and the occurrence of catastrophic disasters raising demand to form global consensus and common territories of issues to deal with.
  5. Changing US policies, protectionism of western blocs, prevalent terrorism and nuclearisation of the Middle East.
  6. Formation of multiple regional economic groupings like TPP and RCEP and fading away of multilateral bodies like UN, IMF, WTO from the global arena.

NAM for India

  • NAM has currently lost relevance for India in a unipolar world, especially after the founding members failed to support India during crisis.
    Ex: During 1962 War with China, Ghana and Indonesia, adopted explicitly pro-China positions.
    During 1965 and 1971 wars, Indonesia and Egypt took an anti-India stance and supported Pakistan.
  • After 1970s, India started leaning towards USSR that confused the other member states and they all fell towards either the US or USSR bloc.
  • Changing US Economic policies and inclination towards US has weakened the purpose of NAM for the small states.
  • India believes in the growing multipolar world and vibrates to be one and thus opposing to the principles of NAM.
  • India engaging with the other big powers to join the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a coalition seen by many as a counterforce to China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific but has juxtaposed the scene by joining the Shanghai Cooperation led by China and in turn balancing the new world order.
Written by Manasa Sastry
Masters degree holder in Forensic Science. Currently, a UPSC Aspirant helping fellow learners to sort their daily current affairs preparation. Loves to learn and help others. Music, dance and art are just a few of my many hobbies. Profile

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