Govt. Comes Under Fire Over Spectrum Allocation

by CXOtoday Staff    Jul 28, 2009

The government on Monday came under attack from a united Opposition in the Rajya Sabha over the entry fee and criteria for issuing licences for spectrum allocation, which it termed as a "monumental scam". They also demanded a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the way in which 2G spectrum was given out to private companies.

Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, who later staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha, sought to know whether the government would fix a market value, especially since the 2G spectrum allottees offloaded their equity at a higher price.

Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M) held the government solely responsible for these allottees making Rs.10,000 crore by selling their equity to private companies. He demanded to know the criteria on which these companies were given licences.

The members also alleged that Unitech and Swan Telecom, who got 2G licences, were real estate companies who later sold their stake and caused a loss of Rs 10,000 crore to the exchequer.

In his reply, the minister for communications and information technology, A. Raja, asserted that nothing has been done clandestinely or surreptitiously. "I maintain it is most transparent," he said, adding that the allotment was done through the prescribed process. The government went by the 2001 recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), fixing Rs.1,651 crore as entry fee for the service providers. It was not revised.

It was for Trai to revisit the issue of entry fee, Raja said as members sought to know whether he would ask the regulator to examine the matter in the context of market mechanism.

Unhappy with Raja’s reply, Arun Jaitley said, "If no answer, or no satisfactory answer, is being given, then we are entitled to presume that no answer could have been given." Yechury added, "Whether there was an act of omission or an act of commission, or both, in each case this is corruption. That aspect has to be addressed."