Telecom minister Kapil Sibal on Friday took both the Opposition and the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) head on in the battle over alleged corruption in 2G telephony, saying there was no policy flaw and CAG’s estimates of revenue losses from underpricing of spectrum were grossly overvalued.
The UPA only followed NDA policies in awarding 2G licences in 2008, Sibal told reporters, describing as “utterly erroneous” CAG Vinod Rai’s estimation of a R1.76 lakh crore loss in government revenues. He said the CAG had done “grave injustice” to the issue.
Turning the tables on the NDA, Sibal said in fact, a policy shift from auction of licences to revenue-sharing took place under the NDA, which led to a loss of R150,000 crore.
“Why is the BJP not talking about that loss? We are following the National Telecom Policy (NTP) of 1999,” Sibal said.
He cited the 10th Five-Year Plan aim of taking telecom to the masses as the basis for cheap or free spectrum allocated to operators, echoing his ousted predecessor A Raja, but distanced himself from the administrative lapses the DMK minister has been accused of. Blunting the CAG edge
He said procedural mistakes in implementation of policy were being investigated by his ministry, including in the CBI’s anti-corruption probe into the matter (which in turn is being monitored by Supreme Court) but the policy itself was neither a UPA brainchild nor was it flawed. “It is a fact that as a consequence of this telecom policy, India is today the world’s largest telecom market,” said Sibal.
“The issue of criminal culpability in implementation is being investigated. All we are saying is that facts on policy must be placed before the people,” he added. Sibal said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too had agreed on continuing with the old policy on 2G pricing while going in for auction of 3G spectrum. He said the telecom regulator had also repeatedly recommended that 2G spectrum not be auctioned. Read Govt's reports
However, the BJP lambasted Sibal "If the entire argument is that there was no loss to the exchequer, then why did Raja resign,” asked party leader Arun Jaitley, adding: “Sibal's entire argument is fallacious. He is just playing with statistics. When spectrum was allotted in 2008, why was it done at 2001 prices?”