India needs an electronics manufacturing base: PM (Roundup)

New Delhi, Dec 5: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday India needs to develop a strong domestic manufacturing base in electronics and telecommunications to arrest the import bill for such equipment. He also added that the usage of internet is quite low in the country and “this is a challenge that should worry all of us”.

“I would like to take today’s opportunity to repeat a point that I made last year. India needs to develop a strong domestic manufacturing base in electronics and telecommunication. It is estimated that by 2020 India will be importing electronics product worth $300 billion, which will be more than the value of our oil imports.

“We need to act now to avoid a situation where we face difficulties in financing these imports. India should have manufacturing facilities, which result in a balanced trade in electronics products and are part of global supply change,” the prime minister said after inaugurating India Telecom 2013 organised by FICCI and the department of telecommunication (DoT) here.

The prime minister also expressed concern with the country’s tele-density. “The expansion of telecom connectivity in our urban areas and later, in our rural areas, has improved our people’s lives in a major way. However, a large part of the vast transformative potential of telecommunications still remains untapped.”

“With a rural tele-density of just over 40 percent, there are millions whose life still remains untouched by the telecom revolution. And this is a challenge that should worry all of us,” he said.

“This deficit is further magnified when it comes to internet connectivity. On a per-capita basis, the usage of the internet is quite low in India. Both the availability and reliability of internet services outside the major cities leave much to be desired,” he added.

The prime minister said the country should leverage the immense potential of the telecommunications to reduce the socio-economic disparities. “I believe that this can be done in a variety of ways. For example, by combining a mobile phone with mobile banking, one can achieve the objective of financial inclusion at a very low cost,” he said.

Speaking at the event, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said he is confident of garnering Rs.40,000 crore from auction of spectrum during this fiscal.

“Considering industry friendly regulatory changes that we promulgated, I am confident of meeting revenue target of Rs 40,000 crore from spectrum sale this fiscal,” Sibal said.

The next spectrum auction is expected to take place in January 2014.

Minister of state for communications Milind Deora emphasised that there should be consensus among the industry members on policy-related issues. “Before government and industry unite, industry must unite,” he said.

IANS