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3G Operation Successful But The Patient is in a Bad Shape

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Amiya Sinha:

The entire debate on spectrum allocation is as if only the government and the telecom companies (telcos) mattered, without reference to the people, the primary stakeholders.

Two arguments favor making spectrum pricey through auctions. One, spectrum is a scarce resource whose value escapes the government when companies make capital gains selling their allocated spectrum (which is what selling stake in these companies achieves). Two, this is needed to fairly allocate spectrum among multiple claimants. Neither argument is persuasive. Spectrum auction is far from the only way for the government to capture its value. A tax on capital gains or windfall profits would do just as well, when a company unlocks the value of its spectrum via sale of stake or spectrum when that is permitted.

In fact, the state appropriates a share of the value created by spectrum when it takes a share of the revenue of telcos. HUL or Tata Motors only pays corporate tax and does not share its revenue with the government, but Bharti and Vodafone do. But this is not all. The spread of telecom boosts economic growth. By the network effect: the greater the number of people connected to the network, the greater the value of being connected for each person. With ubiquitous phones, decisions get taken faster.

Productivity increases – a CEO calls up his driver before he leaves his room so that by the time he reaches the building entrance, his car is waiting for him; a multi-location video conference clinches a crucial decision that would otherwise have called for many high-value man-day’s of travel.

The entire IT-BPO success story is thanks to India’s telecom revolution. Phones have multiplied the incomes of self employed tradesmen (carpenters, etc). Rural producers realize better prices because their phone tells them the mandi price. Such enhanced incomes, cumulatively, drive up the demand for goods and services. If there had been no telecom revolution, would Bangalore have seen a real estate boom?

The government captures a share of this additional output through direct and indirect taxes. But creating larger output, which is the tax base, is not telecom’s only contribution to tax revenue. Telecom has also enabled a tax information network, which has raised the share of tax collections in GDP – direct taxes grew at more than 30% a year even as the nominal economic growth was around 15%.

If we assume that without the telecom revolution, India’s GDP growth would have been one percentage point lower and that the tax/GDP ratio would have been one percentage point lower, the increase in tax revenue just in 2009-10 attributable to telecom is Rs 90,000 crore, assuming the lower growth since 2003-04, when the telecom revolution gained scale.

India most certainly would not have had its telecom revolution had spectrum been as expensive in 2003 as the 3G spectrum is now, that is, close to Rs 68,000 crore.

Some argue that call rates would not go up because of higher spectrum charges because competition would force players to hold tariffs. This might be true for a specific phase of the industry’s growth but is not sustainable, and will show up in slower expansion and lower quality of services. India cannot continue to have a world class telecom industry, even if its capital costs (spectrum fees capitalized becomes just that) are many times higher than they need to be, that is just plain silly.

Upfront spectrum fees transfer investible resources from the non-government sector to the government. They jack up the cost of telecom services or slow down their expansion and quality improvement and, vitally, impede roll out of real broadband –1 gigabits of data per second (what Google is planning for US homes and is also envisaged in the US national broadband plan).

Instead, if the government keeps the spectrum cheap, and focuses on the larger tax base created by faster growth of telecom, its revenues would be bigger over time and the Indian people would be better off. But, in the absence of auctions, how do we allocate the spectrum to companies? The answer has two parts. In telecom, the degree of competition is determined by the total availability of spectrum and the minimum spectrum required by each player. Suppose four players are possible.

Who these players are matters a lot to telcos, but next to nothing to consumers, so long as all of them are competent. Take lots, have a beauty parade, make the telco CEOs do the Iron man – whatever the method of selection, it should not impact the cost or quality of telecom services.

However, the bigger problem in this model is the obsolete idea of dedicated spectrum for a telco. India needs to invest in technology that will create a real-time spectrum exchange, so that the entire spectrum is available to all the telcos to service their customers, with the exchange matching the demand for and the supply of spectrum at every point of time, the usage charge accruing to the government right then and there. Just because this departs from the legacy model of the west, it does not mean that we should not put people first.

Costly spectrum only serves to transfer investible resources to the government and slow down telecom spread. The Indian telecom industry needs huge investments in broadband to secure what will soon be a competitive norm: 1 Gb per second. Cheap spectrum and fast telecom spread boost GDP growth and yield more revenue than when the spectrum is costly.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz pursuing Economics (1st Yr.) from Ramjas College, University of Delhi. Football is his religion.  Writing has always been one of his areas of interest.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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