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Surjewala questions timing of tariff hike by 3 telcos, accuses Centre of promoting crony capitalism

New Delhi : Congress leader Randeep Surjewala on Friday flayed the near-simultaneous cellphone tariff hike by the nation’s three leading telecom service providers, claiming that the move has burdened about 109 crore mobile phone users out of the 119 crore consumer base.

Smelling ‘conspiracy’ over the tariff hike by the top three telcos in one go, the Congress General Secretary said that this could not have been possible without the blessings of the Modi government, as he questioned the unilateral decision by the telcos to effect 15-20 per cent hike in tariffs from July 3.

The Congress leader accused the Central government of putting an additional burden of Rs 34,824 crore on 109 crore mobile users yearly, as he claimed that crony capitalism was ‘thriving’ in Modi 3.0, much like in its earlier terms.

Notably, there are about 119 crore mobile users in the country, and out of this, the top three firms, namely Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone-Idea, account for 109 crore subscribers.

“The cellphone market in India is an oligopoly – Reliance Jio (48 crore users), Airtel (39 crore users) and Vodafone Idea (22.37 crore users). Out of these, Jio and Airtel have a customer base of 87 crore, making them a virtual duopoly,” Surjewala claimed.

He also posed many questions to the Centre and sought to know why it didn’t oversee and regulate the pricing as it will affect 92 per cent mobile users in the country.

“Why did the Modi government and TRAI abdicate their duty and responsibility towards 109 crore cellphone users,” the Congress leader asked.

Surjewala, citing a TRAI report, said that the telecom firms earn Rs 152.55 per month from every user and an average 15 per cent hike in tariff will enhance their earnings manifold, and it’s the users who will be at the receiving end of the ‘collusion’ between the conglomerates.

Projecting annual earnings data of the top three telcos, Surjewala claimed that Reliance Jio’s average tariff hike of 20 per cent will see its yearly earnings jump by Rs 17,568 crore, Airtel with 15 per cent hike will stand to gain an additional Rs 10,704 crore annually, while Vodfaone-Idea with 16 per cent hike will pocket Rs 6,552 crore annually.

He also said that not only was the date of the announcement of tariff hikes by these companies the same, but also the date of effective implementation of the increased tariffs.

Hindi Website