All cooperation to bring out truth: Manmohan

As the Lok Sabha on Thursday adopted a motion to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into the allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum from 1998 to 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the policy (on spectrum allocation) adopted by the UPA regime “was sound, [but] the way it was implemented, I think, gave rise to problems.”

He also attacked the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party for its “attempt to create the appearance of differences” between himself and P. Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister at the time, “through innuendo and misrepresentation” of the facts. The Prime Minister said Mr. Chidambaram, who “initially had a different view,” subsequently worked out an “agreed formula on spectrum charges” with the then Telecom Minister, A. Raja, and that this was conveyed to him in a meeting in July 2008.

The JPC report is to be submitted to Parliament by the end of the next session. It will examine telecom policy and implementation related to licence and spectrum allocation, look at irregularities and its consequences and formulate recommendations to ensure proper procedures for allocation and pricing.

Lively exchanges

The debate on the motion setting up a JPC saw lively exchanges between Communications Minister Kapil Sibal and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj with Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee also having his say. While Dr. Singh did not intervene in the debate on the JPC, he admitted to problematic implementation of the telecom policy earlier in the day while replying in the Lok Sabha to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President's address.

“People ask me why then all these concerns about the wrongdoings. My respectful answer to that is that when I looked at the telecom situation in 2007-2008, the proposals that came to me was that the Ministry had decided not to go in for auctions [of 2G spectrum]…it had the support of the technical arm of the telecom regulatory system, the TRAI; it had the support of the Ministry concerned; and I felt that for a level playing field, it was entirely appropriate that we should continue on the path which we had followed until 2007,” Dr. Singh said.

“Then subsequently it turned out to be that while the policy was sound, the way it was implemented, I think, gave rise to problems.” Those problems would now be looked into by the JPC, the Public Accounts Committee; and if there are any criminal aspects, by the CBI. “Our government will fully cooperate with all these agencies and with all these entities to ensure that the truth comes out and the guilty are punished,” Dr. Singh stressed.

According to the motion on the JPC, which was unanimously adopted by the Lok Sabha by voice vote, it would have 30 members, 20 from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha. The motion made it clear that the JPC report would cover telecom policy and implementation during the NDA as well as the UPA regimes.

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