“First come first serve” : A Perspective

A lot of hue and cry has been raised on Indian telecom first come first serve policy regarding spectrum allocation and as to why the scarce spectrum was not auctioned. Well, it has a lot to do with the India Psyche.

All the telecom policy makers were on the wrong side of fifty years of age and their earlier childhood experiences (1960s & 1970s) may have been stubbornly ingrained in their approach. The sixties and seventies and good part of eighties were years of scarcity. Everything was scarce from wheat, water, rice to oil, steel and cement. Everything was rationed and one had to travel long distances and stand in a line to buy day to day needs. It wasn’t due to health reasons that everybody used to wake up early in the morning, no!, they had chores to be done. Water was scarce and normally was available 2 hrs in the morning and 2 hrs in the evening with the pressure always fluctuating. Nobody had an individual water tank that you see nowadays. So it was a rush, to make sure that every bucket and every utensil that can hold water is utilized fully. Chances were that this 4 hrs a day government doled out generosity was not always available, so you had big water tankers coming to government colonies and a mad rush with buckets in both hands used to happen. The faster you run and put that damn bucket under the tap of the tanker, the best you were. It was always first come serve, you see!!. Imagine what would have happened if the government said that well, we will send the tanker, but we will auction the water!!. No way, we would have said. Fine, then you run and be the first in queue because that only mattered. Same with wheat and all the other stuff that everybody got at the ration shop. You had to be friends with the Ration guy as he will give you advance information as to when the stuff arrives in exchange for getting his son admitted to a school or some relative transferred from a remote village, so that you could be first in the line. Same for other necessities.

What did we call the traders who were early day auctioneers (they will hoard the grains, oils and sell them to higher bidders)?, they were called black marketers, hoarders, and their acts were punishable by law. How the clocks have turned now? We don’t want first come first serve; we want auctions. This concept is alien to our policy makers. They feel it’s not proper. They still feel that they are the proprietor of the ration kirana shop and they will dole out spectrum as per queue. Off course to some friends of theirs, as use to happen in good old times,they will give advance information so that they can keep their “buckets” ready in time for the water tanker. Transparency was never our hall mark. All activities were done in shadows.

Is it a surprise that we all find ourselves in a bucket now!!

About sanjay

A power industry professional. I did my schooling from DPS, R K Puram, New Delhi ( Class of 1982). Earned my engineering degree from DCE ( Delhi College of Engineering) in 1986. Worked in Tata Motors ( 2 years), Thermax India (5 years), ABB (2 years), Wartsila (13 years) and now work for Tata Power. Stay in New Delhi and works in Noida. Have travelled extensively worldwide and in India. Loves to travel and see the world.
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