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CAS in its present form is an evil conspiracy: Anil Parab

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MUMBAI: "I request you to be united in the face of media reports that the multi system operators and broadcasters are trying to adopt various strategies such as 'divide and rule', 'money power' to woo you. This is battle for survival."

Thus spake Shiv Sena Vibhag Pramukh Anil Parab who dons multiple hats - the CODA (Cable Operator and Distributor Association) president and the only face of cable operators in the government appointed CAS implementation committee is the proprietor of Dattatray Cable in suburban Mumbai.

The man who organised a "historic" meeting of Mumbai-based cable operators won laurels and words of praise from all the top Sena leaders including Shiv Sena working president Uddhav Thackeray, Subhash Desai, Sanjay Nirupam and Vilas Awhsat amongst others. Of course, thousands of Mumbai based cable operators who filled two auditoriums of Bandra's Rang Sharda and also the streets outside cheered him as he rose to address the gathering.

Parab said: "This is the third meeting organised by CODA. We decided to organise this meeting because top leaders such as Balasaheb and Uddhavji wanted to address the cable fraternity. After all, these self-made entrepreneurs were responsible for uplifting themselves and several people from the lower socio-economic classes who were ravaged by unemployment from the the closure of mills and other such reasons."

Blasting the multi-system operators (MSOs), Parab said: "These MSOs, who are dominating the business at present, wrested control from the cable operators. The unsuspecting cable operators who were busy with internal wrangles didn't even realise the gravity of the situation as the wily MSOs gained predominance. In fact, the MSOs used to pretend to be the representatives of the cable operators in the government-appointed CAS task force. But, they were only concerned about furthering their own interests."

When questioned about why the Sena took up cudgels on behalf of the cable operators so late in the day, Parab said: "When former I&B minister Sushma Swaraj mooted the idea of CAS, it seemed like an attractive idea. The hidden dirt of CAS came to the fore only when issues came up during the implementation process. The Sena realised that CAS in its present form is an evil conspiracy that would hurt operators and consumers."

"We realised that a day will come when the cable operator would be told that he would no longer be needed. The MSO and broadcaster nexus would establish contact with the consumer directly. No one was willing to back the last mile operator but Sena supremo Balasaheb raised a voice to protest against this kind of a CAS that would hurt cable operators and consumers. After he gave his clarion call, I decided that the first step was to forge unity and we all united under the banner of CODA," said Parab, amidst cheers and claps.

Referring to his experiences while representing cable operators in the government appointed task force meeting, Parab said: "The I&B officials seemed to toe the line of the MSOs and the pay broadcasters at the CAS task force meetings. In the very first meeting that I attended, I raised the real issues and there was a lot of discomfort amongst the CAS task force members. I proclaimed that the task force would never meet again and my words came true. Then, the ministry appointed the CAS implementation task force and I was the only member representing the cable operators; the MSOs had five representatives whereas the broadcasters had 12 representatives on the 18 member committee. But, I made sure that pertinent and difficult questions were asked. The backing of Balasaheb and our efforts ensured that CAS has still not been implemented in Mumbai despite umpteen efforts by the I&B officials."

Parab claims that the Sena has managed to stem the rot by proclaiming that CAS would rollout in Mumbai only when the cable operators say that they are ready! "Now, after they say anything the other implementation task force representatives look at me for approval," claimed Parab, to applause from cable operators.

Blasting the I&B officials and minister RS Prasad, Parab questioned: "I wonder why the I&B officials are scared of the pay broadcasters? The government appointed CAS task force undertook a study for calculating the costs of the last mile operator and arrived at the ridiculous figure of Rs 46 per month for free to air channels. How come they didn't undertake a similar study before arriving at an unacceptable figure of Rs 72 per month for FTA channels? Why can't they regulate the pay TV broadcasters?"

Referring to the hapless consumers, Parab said: "People in Mumbai pay anything between Rs 150 and Rs 225 per month. Why should the government burden them with monthly cable rates that are double or trice these rates for viewing the same number of channels? How will the slum dwellers afford these rates?"

While taking about recent efforts by MSOs to woo cable operators, Parab said: "I have been reading media reports in some of the financial newspapers that the MSOs have announced schemes to lure cable operators; divide and rule policies. I have read reports that MSOs have offered Hyundai Sonatra cars amongst others. But, these ploys will not work. The Mumbai cable operator fraternity is united under the CODA banner. CODA will not allow CAS to happen in Mumbai unless Balasaheb Thackeray gives his consent."

Well, that is the final word as of today on the possibility of CAS rollout in Mumbai.

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