M A I N   N E W S

2G: PAC indicts Raja, castigates PMO
  Faults PM for helping Raja by keeping PMO at ‘arm’s length’ 
Absolves NDA of wrongdoing
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, April 27
After 15 meetings over eight months, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, examining the 2G Spectrum allocation issue, today indicted former Telecom Minister A Raja for telling half the truth to the Prime Minister and misleading him to execute his unfair plans.

The 270-page draft report circulated to 21 PAC members concluded that Raja disregarded the considered advice of the PM and the genuine concerns he expressed on telecom developments in his November 2, 2007, letter to Raja.

Though it holds the PM indirectly responsible for what happened, it is direct in its castigation of the PMO (which it says failed to ensure compliance of procedures and promptly placing files before the PM) and Finance Minister P Chidambaram who “acknowledged that Spectrum was a rare resource and its price should be based on its scarcity value and yet made a condescending suggestion that the 2G allocation matter be treated as closed”.

The panel blames the Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, for failing to bring the matter to the notice of the Cabinet Secretary despite public outcry on the whopping losses. PAC report agrees to CAG’s presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore, seeks the scrapping of awarded licences and their auction and recommends that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India be strengthened for future pricing and allocation of Spectrum.

About PM Manmohan Singh, the draft report, which Congress and DMK committee members today rejected as predetermined (they accused PAC chairman and BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi of bias and sought his resignation on moral grounds), states: “The PM was misled when he was informed by the minister that the issue of auction of Spectrum was considered but not recommended by the Telecom Commission or TRAI. The minister was saying half truth, hiding the other half to conceal his ulterior designs.”

The report, however, adds: “The PM seemed to have given an indirect green signal to Raja” by acknowledging on January 3, 2008, letter that the minister wrote on December 26, 2007, stating that he was proceeding with Spectrum allocation. The report lists “a strange sequence of events” related to the processing of Raja’s December letter in the PMO. The letter was submitted to the PM on January 7, 2008, - 12 days after its receipt.

On January 11, PM’s private secretary conveyed his desire to take into account developments concerning the Universal Access Service licences whereas these had already been issued a day earlier, on January 10.

The file was received back on January 15 with the PM’s secretary noting that the PM wanted this informally shared with DoT and didn’t want a formal communication. “The sequence of events testifies unfortunate omissions. The PM’s desire to keep the PMO at an arm’s length indirectly helped the Communications Minister to execute his unfair, arbitrary and dubious designs,” the report, with 62 annexures, states.

Significantly, it absolves the NDA of wrongdoing in Spectrum pricing policy. Taking note of how the then Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran of the DMK succeeded in getting revised the terms of reference of the GoM which, in 2003, decided that Spectrum licensing formula should be jointly developed by DoT and the Finance Ministry.

“In 2003, the GoM decided that Finance and Department of Telecommunication would discuss and finalise Spectrum licensing. However, the committee was startled to observe the manner in which the then Telecom Minister succeeded in getting revised the terms of reference of the GoM issued by the Cabinet under the PMO's approval, thereby excluding Spectrum pricing from the purview of Finance Ministry and leaving it solely to DoT,” the report says.




CHIDAMBARAM Instead of initiating stringent action against those responsible for loss to the exchequer, Chidambaram asked the PM to close the matter. The draft report quotes his January 15, 2008, letter which says: “Spectrum is a scare resource. Its price should be based on its scarcity and efficiency of usage. The most transparent method of allocating Spectrum would be through auction... This leaves a question in the minds of licensees who already hold Spectrum over and above the start-up Spectrum. In such cases, the past may be treated as a closed chapter and the payments made in the past for additional Spectrum may be treated as the charges for Spectrum for that period.”

He termed the suggestion of the Law Minister to refer the Spectrum matter to an EGoM as “out of context”. He misled the PM by intimating the availability of Spectrum in the 900 MHz band, which was not available. His assurance to the PM on following established procedures was a blatant lie as he deformed the “first come, first served” policy.

Despite noting that the Communications Minister’s decision was not in conformity with the transaction of business rules, the PMO did not enforce the above rules to sort out the difference of opinion between the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Communications and IT. 



2G: Cong, DMK slam Joshi, seek resignation
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, April 27
The Congress and DMK members of the PAC today slammed the panel’s draft report on 2G Spectrum allocation as “predetermined and biased”, saying they had not been kept in the loop by committee chairman and BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who unilaterally called and questioned witnesses, putting words into their mouth.

Demanding his resignation, they said he had lowered the prestige of the PAC by acting with malafide intentions and finalising the report unilaterally and by not allowing other members access to witness depositions and 3,000 pages of documents received from the PMO and Cabinet Secretariat.

Shocked by the leakage of the report today, they said the report discussion was not even on the agenda for the Thursday’s (tomorrow’s) meeting of PAC. Congress’ KS Rao said they received the report only today with a note that they must come prepared to adopt it tomorrow.

“The draft report mentions that on April 15, the committee took the witness of Solicitor General and CBI chief and on April 16, it examined Principal Secretary to the PM and Cabinet Secretary. This is false. These witnesses were not examined and the April 16 meeting was cancelled. It is clear that the report was written before April 16 with the motive of submission by April 30,” said Rao.



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