“I want no company to shut operations,” finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday in response to a query on the telecom sector. “I want all companies to flourish and serve their customers.”
The Supreme Court had backed the telecom department’s stance on including revenues from noncore items in the definition of AGR in its verdict on October 24.
The minister said top finance ministry officials had participated in discussions held by the committee of secretaries tasked with drawing up possible options for addressing the concerns of the sector.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, which reported total losses of Rs 74,000 crore on Thursday, have petitioned the government for relief in the form of a waiver or a deferral on dues that could be as high as Rs 1.34 lakh crore for the entire sector on account of the AGR decision. The committee, which is headed by the cabinet secretary, is examining the Supreme Court judgment and representations from the telecom sector.
Sitharaman said the government is yet to take a decision on including the dues arising out of the Supreme Court judgment into its own accounts.
“I am not sure if the fitment committee and others had a complete look at it,” she said about the demand to cut the goods and services tax rate on telecom services to 12% from 18% and whether it will be taken to the GST Council. “They (will) take a look at it and then decide if it is to be part of the agenda.”
Relief for Depositors
Sitharman said the government will introduce legislation in the winter session of Parliament, after cabinet approval, to enhance the insurance cover on bank deposits from the current Rs 1 lakh and bring multi-state cooperative banks under the banking regulation act to ensure they follow prudential norms. The winter session is due to start on Monday.
This assumes significance in the wake of the alleged fraud at Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank that has left customers in the lurch after the Reserve Bank of India imposed withdrawal restrictions. Bank depositors currently have an insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh under the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corp.
The finance minister also said the government has no plans to cut spending on welfare schemes and will encourage all the departments of the Union government to spend all the funds provided for them in the budget. She said it was too early to take a call on the fiscal situation and expressed confidence about meeting the target. She said the government has not started thinking about seeking any interim dividend from the RBI.
The finance minister said top executives of some companies had met her following the recent corporate tax reductions and conveyed their interest in stepping up investments, a key element of the government’s revival strategy.