To support less-cash economy, telecom regulator Trai on Monday recommended that a “reasonable” amount of free data access should be provided to rural subscribers on monthly basis and the scheme could be funded from the Universal Service Obligation Fund. “In order to bridge the affordability gap for the persons residing in rural areas and to support government’s efforts towards cashless economy by incentivising digital means, the Authority recommends that a scheme under which a reasonable amount of data say 100 MB per month may be made available to rural subscribers for free,” Trai said.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has suggested that the cost of implementation of the scheme may be met from Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). Under USOF, the government charges a cess, Universal Access Levy, from telecom licencees to fund setting up of telecom infrastructure in all uncovered rural and remote areas of the country.
Trai recommended that to increase participation of other entities for incentivising free data, there is a need to introduce third party (Aggregator) to facilitate schemes which are telecom operator agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation. It has recommended that scheme for free data must be telecom operator agnostic and must not involve any arrangement between the TSP (telecom service provider) and the aggregator/content provider.
It should not be designed to circumvent its regulation on free mobile internet services as mentioned under ‘The Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations’.
Trai in February barred differential pricing on Internet which ended services of platforms like Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero. The regulator in May also released a consultation paper on free data services. The regulator has recommended that the aggregators providing free data service will need to register with the Department of Telecom and it should be a company registered under Indian Companies Act, 1956. “The validity of registration shall be five years. The registrant shall not either directly or indirectly, assign or transfer the Registration in any manner whatsoever to a third party either in whole or in part,” Trai said.
Meanwhile, the Assam government on Monday announced an incentive of 0.75 per cent on digital payments for buying petrol and diesel, in addition to that of the Centre, taking the total benefit to 1.5 per cent. Unveiling an 18-point incentive scheme for transforming the state into a “less cash economy”, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma unleashed a slew of measures, including a reward to first 10 farmers for procuring seeds and fertilisers through the digital mode. “The state government will offer 0.75 per cent discount on purchase of petrol and diesel through the electronic mode. This will be in addition to the central scheme of the same amount, as announced by oil PSUs,” he added. Sarma said the benefit will be notified by oil PSU firms in coming days and it will be with effect from January 1.
“The incentive will be adjusted to VAT dues paid by the oil firms. In total, customers will get the cashback of equivalent to 1.5 per cent of the price of diesel and petrol purchased,” he added. Talking about other schemes, the minister said the first 10 farmers will be rewarded Rs 5,000 and a citation each if the seeds and fertilisers are bought through cashless mechanism between July 1 and July 15 next year.
“Because of all these 18-point incentives, we will have an estimated revenue loss of Rs 100 crore initially. However, if we can make people go digital, then they will come under tax net and in the next 1-2 months, we will gain,” Sarma said while explaining the larger picture. He said further that the steps are being taken to make Assam a “less cash economy”, not “cash less economy”.
MP set to soon have its firstvillage that is fully ‘cashless’
Badjhiri in Madhya Pradesh will soon become first ‘cashless’ village in the state having shops equipped with Point of Sale (PoS) machines, ATMs and kiosks for online payment facilities. “A nationalised bank has come up with a plan in cooperation with the state government to transform Badjhiri into a cashless village,” MP’s Finance Minister Jayant Malaiya told PTI on Monday.
Badjhiri is located on the outskirts of MP capital - Bhopal. “I will visit the village tomorrow with the bank officials to know how the plans will be materialised on ground to make this village entirely cashless,” Malaiya said.