Dayanidhi Maran, the real raja of telecom ministry | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Dayanidhi Maran, the real raja of telecom ministry

With more evidence coming out on DMK heavyweight Dayanidhi Maran's decisions during his tenure as the communications minister, it is becoming clear that he was the real gainer from the ministry of telecom. Manoj Gairola reports. How Aircel owner was forced out

delhi Updated: Jun 24, 2011 00:57 IST
Manoj Gairola

The trickle is growing into a flood. With more evidence coming out on DMK heavyweight Dayanidhi Maran's decisions during his tenure as the communications minister, it is becoming clear that he was the real gainer from the ministry of telecom.

And his successor A Raja, is behind bars for charges that seem lesser than what Maran is accused of.

Investigations by Hindustan Times show that C Sivasankaran, the first promoter of Aircel, a mobile service provider in Tamil Nadu, had finalised a deal to sell the company to Hutchison, for which the approval of the department of telecommunications (DoT) was mandatory. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/24_06_11-pg01a.jpg

But DoT did not give the approval for eight-and-a-half months without giving any reasons. As a result, the deal was called off.

On June 6, Sivasankaran told CBI in Delhi that Maran forced him to sell the company to Maran's friend T Ananda Krishnan's firm Maxis. The same evening in Chennai press briefing, Maran claimed that Sivasankaran was keen to sell the company in any case and that he had nothing to do with it.

In June 2004, one month after Maran became the minister, Aircel had entered into an agreement with Hutchison group for selling the Tamil Nadu operations for Rs 1,200 crore, so that he could use the money to roll out networks in the rest of India.

As per the prevailing licence conditions, Aircel could not transfer equity without prior written consent of DoT. Accordingly, on June 28, 2004, Aircel sought DoT approval with all relevant documents.

By August 14, 2004, Aircel had provided all the information sought by DoT. However, DoT did not give approval nor any reason. As a result, the agreement between Hutchison group and Aircel was terminated.

"We have till date not received the approval from your end for transfer of shareholding of Aircel Ltd as sought by us vide our above mentioned letters," a March 7, 2005 letter by Aircel to DoT, a copy of which is with HT, stated.

"This being the case and considering that the receipt of approval from the DoT was an important prerequisite for consummation of the proposed transaction, Aircel and Aircel Digilink Ltd (Hutchison group company) have now terminated the purchase agreement."

Maran, however, did not respond to email queries from HT. In fact, as long as Sivasankaran owned Aircel, Maran delayed granting licences and spectrum to it, against the set rules, under which these have to be processed within a month.

When Sivasankaran finally sold the company - with all its circles - to Maxis in February 2006 for $800 million (Rs 3,600 crore), Maran granted the company spectrum out of turn by flouting the established first-come-first-served (FCFS) rule.

Maran also granted licences to it without seeking the mandatory recommendation from the industry watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), violating provisions of the Trai act.

He also scrapped the procedures of granting licensing that he used to block licences to Aircel as soon as Sivasankaran exited the company.

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.

In the past two terms of the UPA government, the DMK has retained the telecom ministry, until Raja was forced to resign on November 15, 2010.

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