Published on DNA Daily News & Analysis, as Editorial, October 26, 2009.
There was always a whiff of corruption in the allotment of wireless 2G spectrum to telecom companies. When the allotments took place last year, there were allegations that the entire process was skewed and had allowed many companies to make huge instant profits while at the same timecosting the government thousands of crores in lost licence fees. At that time too, the telecom minister A Raja was at the centre of the storm but the political compulsions of the UPA government ensured that there was no investigation.
A year later, the picture is different. The UPA coalition, specifically the Congress, looks more secure and thus more willing to take on a minister from the DMK. That may have emboldened the CBI to conduct raids against the department of telecom. Though that is a political spin on the issue, the loud protests by the DMK chief M Karunanidhi bear this out. After all it is not often that the premier investigating agency raids a government ministry to look for evidence of corruption.
The scandal revolves around the sale of 2G (second generation) radio spectrum to telecom companies. Companies that paid Rs1,650 crore licence fees were given 4.4 MHz of start-up spectrum for free which some of them sold at huge mark-ups, earning phenomenal profits in the process. Questions had been raised at that time about why the spectrum had not been auctioned, letting the market find its own price. The calculated loss to the government is to the tune of a whopping Rs 60,000 crore.
But while the government’s action against the telecom ministry and 10 or so companies involved in the sale is welcome, it will be hard put to explain why it had defended the allotment process so robustly last year when pointed allegations had been made. The same point has been made by Karunanidhi in his protest to the PM. Equally intriguing is the fact that Raja was re-appointed to the same ministry this time round too, when a new government could have easily reshuffled ministerial portfolios. The conclusion that there is a political element to this exercise is inescapable … (full text).
Links for allotment of wireless 2G spectrum:
- Spectrum Framework Review Implementation Plan: FAQs 1 – 22, not dated;
- 2G spectrum pricing and allocation should be changed … , Nov. 01, 2006;
- Google News-results;
Links for What’s an UPA (United Progressive Alliance) Government?
- on wikipedia: UPA is a ruling coalition of political parties heading the government of India … (full long text);
- Best Answer – Chosen by Voters on answers.yahoo.com: UPA,NDA,UNPA and all other such combinations can,in common parlance, be called Khichdi,formed by the most unlikely mixture of political parties,all with a view to forming a government.The party with the largest number of elected representatives in its stable will be the leader of the coalition and generally will bag all plum ministries.The other constituents of the Khichdi will then start battling out for any remaining good portfolios depending on their numbers.There will be even some who will extend support from outside and start dictating as to how the government should be run,all the time using blackmailing tactics and threats to withdraw support if their dictates are not followed … (full text);
- Indian Elections 2009, results for the UPA Gov;
- Google search for UPAgov: Google Video-results; Google Scholar-results; Google Blog-results.