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Updated: September 23, 2011 03:25 IST

In 2007 secret note, Pranab warned PM about telecom policy problems

Sandeep Joshi
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Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. File photo
PTI Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. File photo

It seems that Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had an inkling in 2007 itself that the manner in which the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) was handling the issue of granting newtelecom licences and distributing spectrum would put the government in trouble.

In a ‘Top Secret' letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 26, 2007, just two weeks before licences were allotted to new companies at 2001-prices in January 2008, Mr. Mukherjee, who was then External Affairs Minister and also head of the Group of Ministers on spectrum-related issues, including pricing, highlighted the urgency of the government having a “clearly stated policy” on issues of telecom licences and spectrum.

Significantly, what the DoT was following in 2008 was the policy framed in 1999 despite the fact that the cellular market had grown leaps and bounds from 2003.

“While it is the prerogative of the government to frame, revise and change the [telecom] policy, it is also the responsibility of the government to do so in a transparent manner and then follow the stated policy in letter and spirit. Thus, it is essential for the DoT to issue the new norms immediately so that the spectrum allocation is done in a transparent manner,” Mr. Mukherjee wrote to Dr. Singh.

The letter, a copy of which is with The Hindu, was accessed by activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal through the RTI route.

Pointing to divergence of views among various government agencies and departments on telecom licences and spectrum allocation, even as the DoT was gearing up to issue new licences in 2007-08, Mr. Mukherjee told the Prime Minister that in August 2007, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) suggested “revised norms which were stringent than the earlier ones,” while in October 2007, the Telecommunication Engineering Centre (a nodal agency under DoT) recommended even more stringent norms. Similarly, a third committee set up under the Additional Secretary (DoT) is taking another look at the norms.

Mr. Mukherjee clearly pointed out that there was no new notification from the DoT on these issues. “No notification post-March 2006 has been issued so far. It is clear that the notified norms so far are only those issued in March 2006,” he said.

Referring to various court cases filed by telecom/operators on spectrum allocation, he had warned that “it can lead to problems if we do not have a clearly stated policy and norms in this regard…While under the existing policy the government may keep on issuing new licences, the criteria for the grant of licences may be strengthened and put in [the] public domain at the earliest.”

However, Mr. Mukherjee also said the DoT “may continue to follow this [existing] policy till any further changes are made in this regard.” Interestingly, a file noting on this issue by the Prime Minister's Private Secretary on December 28, 2007 stated that “PM wants it examined.”

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Sir,what about this mukherjee himself as finance minister with his budget proposals for this year which were all implemented in April and June 2010?!!All done by him with an eye on vote catching, cheap popularity but thrusting burden on the poor? How he could lower the age of Sr citizen to 60 yrs for Income tax while retaining the retirment age of govt servant also at 60 yrs?!Who bears the burden? It is the poor public in general and the young graduates coming out of the colleges who are in search of jobs. Why keeping the IT and Wealth tax limit same for the very rich class? Has the old age,longevity of Indians not improved? God forbid this Mukherjee to be FM.

from:  c.g.venkatesan
Posted on: Sep 24, 2011 at 16:59 IST

this news item clearly indicate how the PM hands are tied due to 'collusion' politics

from:  Narayanansundaram
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 08:46 IST

Pranab Mukherjee seems not only have prior knowledge about the impending scam to burst out in 2G spectrum licensing approach by the DOT even in 2007 when he sent his warning to the Prime Minister on this issue, but is now determined to bring to book all the guilty involved in this. The moment Dayanidhi Maran wanted and extracted the right to determine the price exclusively to himself, the stink of scam started pervading heavily. It is however quite inexplicable that the PM should keep quiet when warnings were sounded loudly enough for him to get alerted and act. Price needs to be paid not only by those who are directly guilty but also those who were silent witnesses to the crime particularly when they had the responsibility and power to prevent the wrong doing.

from:  R Vasudevan
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 08:11 IST

This was a big 'STEAL'. Mr Mukherjee knew a lot at this stage and made the right noises, but the crooks continued undeterred.The PM also seems to be involved in that it was within his knowlwdge that something fishy was going on.His 'coalition dharma' explanation does not cut much ice now. I am sure that Mr.Swamy knows more and he will reveal every thing step by step till not only this government falls but the Congress is permanently eradicated from the political scene.It is high time that this is done.No wonder the DMK is so badly cut up and it is now clear as to what led to the preelection events in Tamil Nadu.Thanks to Mr.Swamy and the Supreme Court a lot has been revealed and made Mr.P.P.Rao warn the Supreme Court about crossing the Lakshman Rekha.The demeanor of the counsels also matter a lot in knowing the Truth.

from:  S N Iyer
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 07:32 IST
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