I, the babu PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 08 July 2011 00:00
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The government has done well to get Dayanidhi Maran to resign once the CBI pointed to his role in forcing C Sivasankaran to sell his stake in Aircel by refusing to grant any new licences as long as Sivasankaran was the owner—it must have been more than a coincidence that a group firm of the new owner invested in Maran’s brother’s company a few months after it got licences from Maran. With Maran resigning the day after the CBI action, the government cannot be accused of being soft as it was in the case of A Raja. Maran’s was a mixed tenure, the obvious lows being the Aircel episode, coming up with a new policy that allowed granting of new licences in 2007 at 2001 prices (Maran was the original Raja, though Raja bettered him later) and hounding the Tatas in their telecom business after a TataSky spat with his brother’s Sun TV (after the TDSAT got tough, Maran’s ministry backed down). The highs included raising FDI caps to 74% as a result of which Vodafone came in, and really opening up the long distance sector by slashing entry fees.

While attention has rightly focused on Maran and Raja, it’s equally important to focus on the real culprits, the babus who, despite all the immunity the Constitution provides, facilitated this task. If the babus had put their foot down, make no mistake, it would have been really tough for a Maran or a Raja to pull off what they did. FE’s lead story on Maran on Thursday highlighted how, when Maran tried to put all manner of roadblocks in Aircel’s applications, the then telecom secretary Nripendra Misra acted like the classic babu and pushed the files from one place to another—never once did Misra record on file his objection to Maran’s actions. One of his successors DS Mathur, similarly, didn’t agree with Raja’s plans but didn’t put anything in writing, preferring instead to let a junior sign the file while he was on tour; Mathur says he kept both the Cabinet Secretary and the Principal Secretary in the loop (verbally, it would appear), but none of these worthies did anything either. Then finance secretary D Subbarao, who is now RBI Governor, protested initially at Raja’s plans to sell licences in 2008 at 2001 prices, but when Raja was insistent, he backed off quietly—he later cited his preoccupation with budget-making to explain why he allowed a R1,76,000 crore scam to take place! What takes the cake, of course, is the government’s affidavit in the PJ Thomas case—when it was alleged that, as telecom secretary, Thomas had helped Raja by telling the CAG it could not examine the 2G matter, the affidavit in the Supreme Court said Thomas was not to blame as he was merely “processing … a file in a normal routine manner”. That “routine manner”, of course, is precisely the problem.

Last Updated ( Friday, 25 November 2011 10:16 )

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