Centre gives four-year relief to telecom firms on payment of dues
The Centre on Wednesday announced a four-year moratorium for telecom companies to repay their dues to the government. The moratorium that will begin from October 1 will mean that telecom companies in the country will not have to pay their dues to the government for four years if they opt for the scheme.Fifteen entities, most of them telecom companies, owe the government Rs 1.47 lakh crore. Of these, Rs 92,642 crore is unpaid licence fee and Rs 55,054 crore is outstanding spectrum usage charges. Vodafone Idea owes the government Rs 58,000 crore, which is the highest amount owed, followed by Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices.At a press briefing, Union Minister for Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the moratorium will cover all dues, including those related to adjusted gross revenue and spectrum usage charges. The companies who opt for the moratorium would have to pay an interest for deferring the payment of the dues.In another major decision, the government also announced that the revenues earned by telecom companies through non-telecom services will not included in the calculation as part of their adjusted gross revenues.The decision came less than a month after the Supreme Court rejected pleas filed by Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices seeking a recomputation of their adjusted gross revenue dues to the government. The Centre’s decision is also a major shift in its stand as the government and telecom companies had been locked in a legal battle for more than a decade over the definition of adjusted gross revenues. The Supreme Court resolved the matter in favour of the Centre in October 2019.The government had maintained that adjusted gross revenues included all revenues from both telecom as well as non-telecom services, while the operators argued that it should include only the revenue from their core services. On October 24, 2019, the Supreme Court widened the definition of adjusted gross revenues to include the government’s view.Meanwhile, the government on Wednesday also announced that 100% foreign direct investment would be allowed in the telecom sector, up from the existing 49%. The government also cleared a Rs 26,058 crore production-linked incentive scheme for the automobile and drone sector. The scheme is aimed at boosting the production of electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel vehicles, a government release said. The allocation announced on Wednesday is part of the total Rs 1.97 lakh outlay announced in th Union Budget for production-linked incentive schemes.Automobile companies that will invest Rs 2,000 crore for four-wheelers and Rs 1,000 for two-wheelers over the next years will be eligible for the scheme, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said.Meanwhile, companies which invest more than Rs 80 crore in the drone industry will be eligible for the scheme.