M A I N   N E W S

NDA telecom policy under JPC lens
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
The telecom policy followed by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 1998 today came under the scanner of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, which found that the then government gave concessions to telecom players on the basis of a report prepared by the ICICI, which had never been authorised by the Department of Telecom to conduct any such study.

Facts also came to light in the JPC meeting today to suggest that lobbying was on at that time to favour telecom companies, with 50 MPs representing to the Prime Minister (Atal Behari Vajpayee) in June 1998 to seek help for the cellular mobile operators.

These issues surfaced following elaborate admissions to the JPC today by former telecom secretary AV Gokak, who said he had unilaterally asked the ICICI in 1998 to conduct a study on the financial health of the telecom sector and its report had favoured shifting from the fixed licence fee regime to the revenue sharing pattern.

To its surprise, the JPC found that DoT had never authorised the ICICI to conduct any such study. “Officially, the ICICI was never entrusted the job. It did a free service to the government which agreed to shift to the revenue sharing pattern and extent the period of licence from 10 to 15 years as the ICICI suggested. In fact, the then Prime Minister IK Gujral had wanted that TRAI should do the study but Gokak commissioned the study officially to the Bureau of Industrial Costs and Pricing (BICP) to save time. Incidentally, the BICP report came 11 months later after Gokak had retired and he has to date not seen that report. Instead, he admitted that the ICICI report was received promptly in 1998 and also acted upon,” JPC chief PC Chacko today said. The JPC has also asked DoT to track down the letter 50 MPs wrote to the then PM.

The committee chief admitted that certain pressures were working in favour of the telecom sector in 1998. “There was the ICICI study, a representation to the government by the licencees and a representation to the PM by the MPs. A ground was being prepared for migration package. We need to ascertain if the pressures created to favour the telecom sector were real or artificial,” Chacko said.





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