After being cornered by the Opposition for his remarks over Jan Lokpal Bill and CAG report on 2G spectrum, Union Minister Kapil Sibal has decided to focus more on the two important ministries, Human Resource development and the Telecom Ministry. Be it the matter related to improvement in education sector or spectrum allocation in Telecom Ministry, Kapil as the head of both the ministries is giving full attention to only such issues.

Amid 2G spectrum controversies and the widening feud within the government, Kapil Sibal spoke at length regarding these issues with Dainik Jagran. The excerpts:

The Right to Education has been enacted. Is it yielding any result and what are the possible challenges?

Look we have to go a long way. You cannot expect immediate result. If we specifically talk about education, only in the coming years we can see its impact on kids.

Are you satisfied with progress?

The answer cannot be in yes or no. But in order to build the basic infrastructure, all the states would need at least two years. We are trying that all states should be notified as soon as possible and also we should allocate them adequate fund to start functioning immediately. All state governments are trying and in the next three to four years you will see the real effect.

States are seeking more money and are saying that the Centre is being stubborn on the rules?

No we are not stubborn. Only Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh and two or four large states are asking for 100 percent funding from the Centre. Here the condition of education is in such a bad shape that the states are unable to implement RTE in lack of adequate funds. They are not even ready to share 32-35 percent of the burden. However, other states are having no issues.

So what is your take on the demand of such states?

We may have to take the ground reality into consideration and then decide something. However, we would also like to mention that there is stagnancy from the states’ side. The structure of the law is such that only the cohesiveness among the Centre, state government, School Management Committee, Panchayat, NGOs, parents and children can show results. The collective responsibility is the call of the day to make the RTE successful.    

Members of Congress and the allies are also opposed to the education reforms. Due to their protest once this bill of your Ministry was defeated in the Parliament. It is believed that this time you have already held a meeting with them. What is their reaction?

I sincerely hope that Bill will be passed this time. Indeed, it is obvious that when the bill is brought into Parliament some doubts persist. And if we hold talks, then there is no scope for doubt.

After you were given the responsibility of the Telecom Ministry, what measures have you taken to avert a huge scam like 2G spectrum?

In the present condition there is no scope of corruption. We have separated license and spectrum now. As per the present policy, the price of the spectrum will be determined by the market. The mechanism will be determined only when we begin spectrum allocation. In order to maintain transparency in the allocations, the entire system has been made electronic.

What is your biggest priority for telecommunications?

We want that the market should be strong enough and the big companies of the world which so far have not come should come here. If they come here then there will be competition which will eventually increase the price of spectrum.

You made several promises while taking over the Telecom Ministry. In the heat of the present controversies are you still determined to stand by them?

I still stick to my promises and everything will be done on time. We have already announced Telecom Policy, IT policy and manufacturing policy. The final shape of these policies will be finalized in January 2012. Licensing and roll-out will occur before December 2011. We will try to regain back the loss reputation of this sector before December 2012. 
  
There is proposal to formulate a law on Spectrum allocation; will you bring it in this session of Parliament?

There is no such proposal as of now. We will first determine our policy and fix the present issues. Spectrum Act will surely come, but now we will first ensure transparency in the allocation.

What kind of misuse is being done on the USO fund that was sanctioned to provide telecommunication facilities in rural areas?

There is no misuse or dispute. We agree that working in the northeast or remote areas of Chhattisgarh is a challenge for the telecom companies. But when the companies had made an agreement with the government, they were well aware of such situations. In the given situation, we have constituted a committee and only after its report our next step will be determined.

You are talking about the telecommunications services to be provided in the rural areas, but only 36 percent of the population is able to take advantage of this service. 

It is progressing and now more than 45 percent of rural India is getting facilities. We are confident that in next five years, 60 percent of the rural population would be equipped with rural telecommunication services.

Did you reject the letter written by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to you on concession given to the 3G companies?

(Surprisingly) I haven’t received any letter on giving concession to the 3G companies.

JPN