Thanks to Daily Pioneer , Corrupt Telecom Minister now exposed

published on October 23, 2009

Why Raja must resign

J Gopikrishnan | New Delhi – Daily Pioneer

He did not heed recommendations, twisted norms at will to favour applicants

Following CBI raids on the Department of Telecommunication after a direction by the Central Vigilance Commission, Telecom Minister A Raja has been vehemently protesting his innocence in the 2G spectrum scam and even defending the allotments, saying he had done no wrong. He has flatly refused to resign, wondering “why the CBI probe has been instituted”. He has also taken heart from the fact that he has not been named in the FIR filed by the CBI after it raided the DoT offices here and various other locations in a two-day operation.

But the sequence of events and documents do not exonerate the Minister. The Pioneer has been consistently reporting over the last 10 months the irregularities in and his links with the allotment. To begin with, there was no Cabinet approval for the 2G spectrum allocation and the clearance was done at Raja’s behest during UPA-I, in which his party — the DMK — was a dominant player.

Raja joined the Telecom Ministry in May 2007 after Dayanidhi Maran’s unceremonious exit. Interestingly, all the new players were from the real estate sector, many of whom were known to Raja during his earlier tenure in the Environment Ministry.

The cut-off date for applications was fixed as October 1, 2007. Raja announced that licences and spectrum would be allotted on first-come-first-served basis. The then Telecom Secretary DS Mathur and then TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra objected to this method and argued for an auction.

Due to Mathur’s objections, Raja put the process in cold storage till the officer’s retirement on December 31, 2007. Raja then got his confidant Siddharth Behura, who had worked under him in the Environment Ministry, as the new Telecom Secretary.

Within days, Behura issued an unprecedented order for advancing the cut-off date by six days, revising it from October 1, 2007, to September 25, 2007, through a mere Press release.

A single Bench of the Delhi High Court quashed this order on a petition filed by STel, a loser in the spectrum allocation, in June 2009. The Telecom Department’s appeal against this order is now pending with the Delhi High Court, which has refused to grant a stay.

Even as Raja issued orders through Behura, the then TRAI chairman objected to the decisions and gave the Ministry a series of recommendations and guidance, which were all ignored. Manipulating the TRAI recommendations urging for competitive auction, Raja went ahead with the non-transparent and loss-making first-come-first-served process.

Apart from TRAI, the Finance Ministry — headed by P Chidambaram — also came out openly against the first-come-first-served policy. The then Finance Secretary D Subba Rao (currently RBI Governor) and Behura engaged in a war of letters on the issue.

Rao objected to the pricing policy cleared by Raja and pointed out that the spectrum could not be given away in 2008 at the prices fixed in 2001. The Finance Secretary had even issued a letter seeking the cancellation of the process as the prices were much cheaper. He pressed for existing market prices, to be determined through auction.

Real estate companies Swan and Unitech became the beneficiaries of Raja’s questionable move. Behura issued orders in favour of these companies to facilitate their offloading of shares to multinational companies. The mandatory lock-in period of three years, prohibiting change of ownership, was waived off for these companies. The Minister also gave waivers on regulations in acquisition and mergers in the telecom sector.

Incidentally, for his stellar services, Behura was rehabilitated immediately after his retirement. On October 1, 2009, he was appointed chairman of the Chennai based C-DoT Alcatel Research Centre, a public-private venture.

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