Did former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran flout the first-come-first-served (FCFS) rules during his tenure to enable Aircel — under Malaysia-based Maxis — to secure spectrum?
Hindustan Times has reviewed documents that show how Aircel was favoured after the company had been taken over by Maxis, promoted by T Ananda Krishna, who is a decade-long associate of the Marans.
On February 14, HT first reported how Astro, a Maxis group company, got the cabinet’s nod to invest Rs. 675 crore in Sun Direct TV — a company owned and run by Kalanidhi Maran, the DMK leader’s elder brother.
The department of telecom on Maran’s watch granted spectrum to Aircel for the Kolkata circle much before Bharti Airtel even though Aircel was behind Airtel in the list of applicants.
Maran, who is now textiles minister, did not reply to HT’s emails regarding this decision.
Incidentally, A Raja, another DMK leader who succeeded Maran as telecom minister, is in jail now for allegedly manipulating, among other things, the first-come-first-served policy.
The policy manoeuvring has also been corroborated by the Shivraj V Patil committee, which the government set up to look into the procedures for granting telecom licences and spectrum.
"While in terms of the FCFS procedure, the application of Bharti Airtel for additional spectrum was required to be decided (on) first, pending verification of the subscriber data … a decision was taken to allot initial spectrum to subsequent applicant Dishnet Wireless Ltd," the Patil committee observed in its report submitted in January.
Dishnet Wireless was an Aircel sister concern and was later merged into it.