"When I started investigating the Maran story, in January 2011, I never thought that it would mushroom into such a big issue --- no reporter does." But today, when I see the CBI investigating the matter and it getting a political flavour, I feel proud to be a reporter.
The story gathered momentum with the one-man committee of Justice Shivraj V Patil submitting his report on irregularities by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) while issuing licences and spectrum during between 2001 and 2009.
The 149-page, January 31 report listed the irregularities committed by DoT during the tenure of all communications ministers. On page 94, the report mentioned that DoT delayed granting licences to Dishnet (a sister concern of Aircel) by seeking clarifications “not warranted in terms of the laid down procedures.” This observation went unnoticed.
In the press conference following submission of the report, the current communications minister Kapil Sibal used the report to target the NDA regime and its minister Arun Shourie.
To me, Patil’s observation on Maran was crucial. I had observed the developments and the way Maran functioned as minister. Much of what I knew I could not report as I could not substantiate the information. The Patil report gave me leads for evidence that I had been searching for five years.
I wanted to establish a link between two events.
One, the delay in granting licences to Dishnet by Maran that ultimately led to the exit of its original promoter C Sivasankaran.
And two, Maxis, the Malaysia-based, T Ananda Krishnan-promoted company that bought Dishnet (and renamed Aircel) getting cabinet approval to invest $150 million (Rs 675 crore) in Sun Direct TV in lieu of 20% equity through its sister concern Astor within four months of getting licences. Any analyst would say that the valuation of $750 million (Rs 3,375 crore) for a start up DTH was a little out of reality.
It seemed to me that Sivasankaran was forced to sell his company to Krishnan. But when I contacted him, he was least interested in talking --- perhaps he had lost faith in the Indian system.
So, I had to chase this story by following documents from the Malaysian stock exchange and Ministry of Corporate Affairs to reading the heavy DoT files.
Finally, on February 15, I was able to piece together my first story, ‘Sun TV shone on Aircel deal?’ I followed this story with others (See list below). In all these stories, I repeatedly sought Maran’s comments. But like Aircel’s licences before Krishnan became its promoter, they never came.
February 14, 2011
Sun TV linked to spectrum deal?
February 24, 2011
Reddys paid for 0.7%, got 26% in Aircel
June 02, 2011
Dayanidhi Maran bent telecom rules to help friend
June 09, 2011
Maran did a Raja, twisted policy for Maxis-run Aircel
June 23, 2011
Dayanidhi Maran, the real raja of telecom ministry
June 15, 2011
Maran flouted Trai rules
June 06, 2011
Maran changed rules to be 'spectrum raja'