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Monday, 21 November 2011 03:03
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CBI’s new telecom loop

PSUs have much more ‘extra’ spectrum, but spared

 

 

Given the facts of the case, CBI’s latest telecom FIR, and the subsequent raids on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh, do appear politically motivated. For one, if you assume Ghosh and other telecom officials gave out more than the contracted 6.2 MHz of spectrum to telcos like Bharti and Vodafone at the behest of the then telecom minister, the BJP’s late Pramod Mahajan in 2001-02, no action has been taken against PSUs like BSNL and MTNL who have a lot more ‘extra’ spectrum. If Bharti has 32.6 MHz of ‘extra’ spectrum across all its telecom circles and Vodafone 19.6, BSNL has 61.6 and MTNL 12.4—given MTNL’s spectrum is in Delhi and Mumbai, and in better spectrum bands, this is the most valuable. Since the mobile revolution hadn’t taken off during Mahajan’s time, if ‘extra’ spectrum was the crime, the largest amount of ‘extra’ spectrum was only given out during the UPA regime when mobile subscriber numbers shot up and when companies lined up for ‘extra’ spectrum. Indeed, when he was telecom secretary, JS Sarma, the current Trai chief, had okayed a roadmap to give firms ‘extra’ spectrum up to 15 MHz. Yet, CBI chose to focus on just the Mahajan period. Which is why, as FE reported on Sunday, many UPA telecom ministers of state have gone on record often enough to say the ‘extra’ spectrum was given according to government guidelines—after all, there was nothing to prevent them from jacking up the spectrum charges for ‘extra’ spectrum given out by them. In any case, since the loss on account of this ‘extra’ spectrum has already been computed at R36,993 crore by CAG—the companies will pay once the government issues a demand notice to them—the issue does seem a bit of a dead duck.

Even more curious is how CBI zeroed in on the Pramod Mahajan period though it is true the Supreme Court has asked CBI to investigate matters going all the way back to 2001. In the ongoing Raja case, CBI is yet to file an FIR on the dual-technology matter—how were three firms given licences even before the policy was announced and how was a decision taken to process the applications of all the dual-tech firms before those of the 575 applications for GSM spectrum? CBI is yet to file an FIR on Loop Telecom and it has given a clean chit to Datacom even though it was also allowed to jump the queue by A Raja’s tweaking of first-come first-served criterion ... CBI has a lot of explaining to do.

 

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 November 2011 08:47 )
 

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