No CAS in Mumbai - asserts Sena supremo Thackeray

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Well, it’s almost time to officially bid adieu to CAS (conditional access system) in Mumbai and, in all probability, in Kolkata too. Delhi was pulled off the rollout map earlier this week by the Indian government citing political reasons.

Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, whose party wields immense clout in Mumbai, today said that he would not allow rollover to a new CAS regime in Mumbai unless the central government tried it out in Delhi first, thus reiterating his well-known opposition to CAS.

In a related development, reports filtering from Kolkata said that the Left-oriented West Bengal government has also expressed its reservation on implementing CAS in the city of Kolkata. Senior information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry officials met up with Bengal’s principal secretary today to discuss CAS.

What’s the government reaction to all these developments? I&B minister Prasad, who was at a round-table on the need for a regulatory body for the broadcasting sector, refused to speak on the CAS issue saying, "Enough has been said."

According to reports available in Delhi, the West Bengal chief minister (CM) is understood to have written to the I&B minister Prasad on CAS requesting that its implementation be deferred in Kolkata. However, a senior ministry official today expressed his ignorance about the Bengal CM’s letter.

Meanwhile, while the Shiv Sena supremo Thackeray was holding forth on CAS in Mumbai, party member of Parliament (MP) Sanjay Nirupam told in Delhi just before meeting Prasad early evening, "It looks very difficult for CAS to be implemented in Mumbai after what has happened in Delhi."

After the meeting with Prasad, he told waiting journalists that CAS is not about elections; it’s simply not pro-consumer.

"The government says that CAS has been deferred in Delhi because of elections and since there are no elections to be held in Mumbai, it should be rolled out there. I say, CAS is not about elections. It’s a system that is simply not pro-consumer, at least the way it is being sought to be implemented," Nirupam asserted.

Asked whether he and his party oppose addressability as a technology, Nirupam said, "Per se we are not against this, but let there be open CAS and let the market forces decide thereafter." However, he couldn't explain convincingly what exactly he meant by 'open CAS' and 'market forces'.

Nirupam maintained that CAS is a big plan to help a foreign company make some fast buck by selling technology and boxes. A fact that was amplified by his leader, Thackeray when he said in Mumbai, "Somebody has taken an agency for set-top boxes and the government is marketing it. Why compel people to purchase set-top boxes?"

Thackeray also sounded a warning to the cable operators of Mumbai against acting in a highhanded manner with consumers.

When asked about the investments made by MSOs on importing boxes, Shiv Sena Vibhag Pramukh and spokesperson on CAS Anil Parab explained,"They must have made investments, but that hasn't sorted out the deficiencies in the present system. The investments will come handy when CAS gets implemented in a new avatar in due course of time."

Now, if three out of the four metros where CAS was to be rolled out from 1 September are revolting, can the fourth one, Chennai, be far behind?

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