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DoT claims ring hollow

delhi Updated: Nov 13, 2010 01:54 IST
Nagendar Sharma

The latest attempt by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to use the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) as a shield for its embattled minister A Raja in the 2G spectrum scam runs contrary to findings noted in official documents.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court on Thursday, the DoT has said there was "no difference of opinion with the PMO" on the 2G spectrum allocation in 2008, and it was kept fully informed of all decisions about the allotment.

However, official communications between Raja and the PMO, made public under the RTI and the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the telecom policy, do not support the DoT claims in its affidavit.

In response to a letter by Raja to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on November 2, 2007, the PM had raised several concerns. "A number of issues relating to allocation of spectrum have been raised by telecom sector companies as well as in section of the media," Singh wrote.

He directed Raja to "correct pricing of spectrum, consider introduction of a transparent method of auction wherever legally and technically feasible, and revision of entry fee which is currently benchmarked on old spectrum auction figures".

The CAG has pointed out in its report that the telecom ministry completely disregarded the PMO advice. "Ignoring the advice of even the Prime Minister, the minister (Raja) decided to go ahead, arbitrarily deciding that the cut-off date for issue of LoI (letter of intent) would be advanced and applications received would be decided on a first-come-first-served basis," says the report.

The DoT, in its rebuttal to the findings, has failed to provide any response to the points raised by the PM and has not explained why either an auction or benchmarking of 2G spectrum with market prices could not be done.

According to the CAG, the ministry ignored many suggestions made by other ministries. "The spectrum pricing issue was to be decided in consultation with the finance ministry. However, when a group of ministers was set up, its terms of reference were altered at the instance of DoT to keep the spectrum pricing issue out of its purview," states the report.