Once bitten, the UPA government wants to secure the opinion of its top law officer before taking a stand on 2G spectrum prices.
In a Union cabinet meeting on Tuesday, telecom minister Kapil Sibal was specifically asked to take the opinion of the attorney general before moving his ministry's proposals to the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM). Sources said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, home minister P Chidambaram and Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia were among the persons in favour of adopting this strategy.
The telecom ministry's proposal proposed a one-time spectrum charge on the existing spectrum holdings of telecom service providers at auction-determined rates. For spectrums already allotted beyond 6.2 MHz/ 5 MHz in GSM/ CDMA band, these charges were to be applied prospectively. For retrospective charges, Sibal wanted to wait for the final outcome of the presidential reference.
At the beginning of the cabinet meeting — the first one after former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s exit — Singh said, “We will miss him.” And even as he spoke on Mukherjee, the others thumped their desks in appreciation.
A cabinet committee on Tuesday approved the export of two million tonnes of wheat, with a floor price of $228 (about Rs 12,400) per tonne, from its buffer stock to make storage space for new crops. The decision, however, drew scathing criticism from members of the civil society.
Biraj Pathnaik, the Supreme Court-appointed food commissioner, said it was “very unfortunate” that the central government should decide to subsidise wheat for cattle in developed countries — instead of poor people in India.