Dismissing criticism over the Reliance Jio ads featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha has said there is nothing wrong in someone fulfiling Prime Minister’s dream to provide digital connectivity.
He also said the tariff war unleashed by Reliance Jio by offering free voice calls and data at low price is “healthy competition” that will ultimately benefit users.
Sinha, 55, who replaced Ravi Shankar Prasad at the high-profile ministry in the last Cabinet reshuffle three months ago, also countered charges by COAI, the association of incumbent telecom operators, that sector regulator Trai is biased, saying “show me a decision taken by Trai favouring anyone”.
In an interview to PTI, he said the intention of Prime Minister’s Digital India campaign is to bridge the digital divide and use the Internet as a growth enabler.
“I think when the Prime Minister launched Digital India campaign, the intention was to end the digital divide in the country. If anyone is giving digital connectivity to people on a large scale, then in a way, he is fulfiling the dream of the Prime Minister… then I do not see any objection,” he said.
He was responding to the criticism by political parties, particularly the Congress and the AAP, over the Prime Minister featuring in a full-page newspaper advertisement issued by Reliance Jio immediately after billionaire Mukesh Ambani announced the launch plan at the RIL AGM.
He hit out at the Congress for “doublespeak”, saying, “I have received letters from 10-20 senior Congress leaders complaining that Reliance Jio is not getting points of inter-connect (from other operators) and that immediate action should be taken… It is doublespeak.” Refusing to be drawn into the debate on whether or not requisite permission was taken from the PMO for use of the photograph to promote a commercial service, Sinha said, “It will be better if you ask this question to the Prime Minister… whether there was permission or not. I cannot give my opinion on this.” On the price war unleashed by Jio, he said: “Healthy competition in the sector is good for consumers and as a minister, I feel consumer is God.