Prime Minister regrets scam but defends telecom policy | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Prime Minister regrets scam but defends telecom policy

Scams should not cloud the tremendous growth in the telecom sphere in the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday, adding there was nothing wrong in the present telecom policy of not auctioning telephony spectrums.

delhi Updated: Feb 24, 2011 19:50 IST

Sharing concerns of all sections over scams including those involving 2G spectrum and CWG, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tursday said in Parliament that his government would do everything to clean the "public life" and ensure that "no wrong-doer" goes unpunished.

He referred to the decision to form JPC into 2G scam and the probe being undertaken by the CBI in various corruption cases and said his government would "fully cooperate" with all the agencies "so that the truth comes out."

Replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on Motion of Thanks to the President's Address, Singh also said everything would be done to bring back black money stashed abroad as "we are one with Opposition" on the issue.

Underlining that the problem of black money had not occurred only four to five years back but was older than that, he said the government was ready to "sit" with all parties to discuss how to deal with it and "all constructive suggestions" would be considered.

After Singh's reply, the Motion was adopted by voice vote. During the 55-minute, the Prime Minister responded point-by-point to various issues raised by members concerning corruption, inflation, internal security and foreign policy. Referring to the scams that were highlighted by members, Singh said, "I don't deny that unfortunate developments have taken place in the areas of telecom and Commonwealth Games."

He said these concerns are being addressed and whenever "credible and actionable evidence" is being found, action is taken. In this regard, he pointed out that Chief Ministers and Union Ministers have resigned after allegations were leveled against them and the CBI is on the trail of the scams.

"I assure this House that there is nothing that we will not do in order to clean our public life," Singh asserted. Talking about the controversial 2G spectrum allocation, he said, "If there is a scam, it must be dealt with."

Law of the land will punish the wrong doers." At the same time, he said, "We must not overlook the fact that there is tremendous growth in the telecom sector which has taken place." He defended the telecom policy, which was pursued since 1999, saying it had paid "rich dividends" and said the fault lay with the implementation.

"There is nothing wrong in the telecom policy (of issuing the spectrum licenses on the first come first serve basis). Our government has continued the same path and that policy has paid rich dividends," he said.

With regard to the CWG, he said the Games were very successful despite doubts that were expressed earlier. "There were complaints of wrong-doings even before the Games and from the ramparts of the Red Fort, I had promised that if a wrong thing has been done, we will investigate the matter.

"If found guilty, no one will be spared," he said. "No wrong-doer can escape punishment," Singh said, noting a high-powered committee was looking into the issue. "In all these matters, I think, it is our bounden duty and my promise to this House that we will not flinch from ensuring that no wrong-doer escapes the penalties that our legal system provides," the Prime Minister said.

Referring to the controversial deal between Antrix, commercial arm of ISRO and private company Devas for S-band spectrum allocation, Singh said it was never implemented as the necessary clearances were not given.

"Antrix needed government approvals for operationalising the contract (with private company Devas). These were not given. In particular, the operating licences and the regulatory approvals from various ministries were also not given and hence the contract did not become operational," he said.

He said the government had taken a policy decision that in the light of the country's strategic requirement, it will not provide orbit slot in S-band to Antrix for commercial activities "including for those which are the subject matter of existing contractual obligation for S-band."

Singh asserted that no allocation for terrestrial spectrum had been made by the government to either Antrix or Devas and therefore, the figures of costing of lakhs of rupees have "no basis". The decision to open satellite services to non-government parties, Indians and foreign, was taken and approved by the then government in 1997, he said, pointing out that "this was not the Congress government."

He also sought to corner the BJP, saying the norms, guidelines and procedures to operationalise the policy including the modalities for pricing of lease of transponder were approved in 2000 under the NDA regime. Singh noted that his government had set up a high-powered committee this month to review the technical, commercial, procedural and financial aspects of the Antrix-Devas agreement.

It will suggest corrective measures, to fix responsibility for lapses, if any and to review the adequacy of procedures and approvals processes followed by Antrix, ISRO and Department of Space and suggest improvements, he said. (MORE) The Prime Minister said dealing with corruption, inflation, internal and external challenges were among the foremost priorities of the government which were mentioned in the President's address also.

Referring to the "gist" of concerns expressed by members over these aspects, Singh noted that some had appreciated what the government is doing, others have criticised that the efforts are inadequate, half-hearted while some have questioned the motives.

"I have always believed that in Parliamentary system, those who take part in the debate can debate the broad question, but if people start doubting intentions, I think that is not good for the healthy growth of Parliamentary system," he said.