M A I N   N E W S

Arun Jaitley admits mistake in formulation of telecom policy
Kapil Sibal says he never made ‘zero loss’ statement
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Arun Jaitley
Arun Jaitley

New Delhi, March 1
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal today tried to put the record straight regarding his contentious statement that there was zero loss to the exchequer in the 2G Spectrum scam, while Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley, in an implicit admission, agreed that things did go wrong during the initial years of formulation of the telecom policy. He, however, added that it wasn’t a deliberate mistake.

Jaitley said, “The government, which decided in 1993-94 to allow a public-private partnership, went wrong in the formulation of policy in 1993-94. And, I don’t think that it was a deliberate mistake. We were new to that experience.”

“In a hit-and-trial system, which we followed at that stage, we opened out, but thought that, perhaps, whoever wants to enter the field should necessarily pay a very large licence fee to the public exchequer. We thought we were allowing public players and it was necessary that the state should benefit out of that. Little did we realise that this large licence fee would not come out of private 
pockets, but would immediately be transferred to consumers,” he added. The heated debate that followed after Sibal moved the motion for the setting up a JPC to go into the 2G scam saw Jaitley accusing the UPA government of drawing a parallel between NDA’s judgmental mistakes and its “scandals”.

Jaitley said the UPA was trying to draw a “moral equivalence” between the NDA and the UPA regimes “to dilute taint” following developments of 2007-08.

Meanwhile, Sibal, who earned considerable flak for his “zero loss” observation, said what he actually meant was that since a first-come-first-served policy was in place at that point in time, an auction could not be held, and hence there was no loss.

“Either you have a first-come-first-served policy or you have an auction. If there is a policy of first-come-first-served, there is no question of an auction. If there is no question of auction, there is no question of loss. So, the loss is nil. I did not say that if the Spectrum was auctioned, it would not have fetched a price. I never said that,” Sibal said.

Seeking to turn the tables on the BJP, Sibal said the telecom policy enunciated by the then government in 2003, followed by the UPA-I and UPA-II, had a beneficial effect because it increased tele-density to a great extent.

“It served the public purpose,” he added.

“That is exactly what the Prime Minister said the other day that on the issue of policy, it was followed. It had some beneficial effects….tele-density in 2001 was 1-odd per cent, in March 2005, it was only 8.95 per cent and in December 2010, it was 66.16 per cent,” the minister said.

Abhishek opts out of JPC

The Congress said it was hopeful that BJP leaders Jaswant Singh and Yaswant Sinha would take a cue from its spokesman Abhishek Singhvi, who recused himself from the JPC as he had appeared for cellular operators in the court, and also opt out of the formulation.

The party, however, has decided not to make an issue out of it.

Meanwhile, Singhvi has been replaced by his colleague Jayanthi Natrajan.

The two BJP members had headed the group of ministers (GoM) on telecom as finance ministers in 1999 and 2003.

A senior Congress leader said their inclusion would cause conflict of interest.





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