No justification for giving spectrum in 2008 at 2001 prices.

Our Bureau

New Delhi, Jan. 7

Industry experts and analysts said that the claims by the Communication and IT Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, that there was no loss to the country due to the 2G spectrum policy was ‘incorrect' and ‘disturbing'

“The contention being proposed by Mr Sibal is disappointing to put it politely and ridiculous and laughable if I am permitted to use stronger words. To contend that there has been no loss to exchequer in the face of overwhelming evidence of at least two private companies profiteering from this cheap spectrum, is to insult the intelligence of the people of India and media,” said Mr Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Member of Parliament.

“The Minister Mr Sibal must also realise spectrum and other national assets are not a private dispute between the BJP and the Congress.

“They belong to the people of India and Government's handling of this has to be meeting the test of right and wrong and not simply relying on precedence of history or conduct of a previous Government. Most disturbingly, the attempt to give a clean chit and put forth an argument that there is no loss raises questions about its timing when there is a Supreme Court-monitored CBI investigation into this whole scam,” he added.

Mr B.K. Syngal, former Chairman of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, said the Government has failed to justify how it could give 2G licences in 2008 at 2001 price. “The loss to national exchequer should be seen in the light of how the new licensees later on sold equity stake to foreign players at 6 times the money paid as entry fees,” Mr Syngal said.

Mr Mahesh Uppal, Director at telecom consultancy firm Com First, said that it was more about flawed spectrum allocation policy than it being an issue of losses to the exchequer. “There is sufficient evidence to indicate that both the NDA and the UPA Governments have followed a non-transparent spectrum management and therefore neither can take a holier-than-thou-art view. Without getting into numbers on presumptive loss, the core issue of spectrum allocation needs to be addressed,” Mr Uppal said.

Other market watchers said that Mr Sibal was trying to deflect the issue away from corruption and the involvement of large corporates by turning it into a political battle with the opposition.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 8, 2011)
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