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A king-size telecom scam

A king-size telecom scam

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 1, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/192895/A-king-size-telecom-scam.html

Let CBI or JPC probe spectrum allocation

It remains an abiding mystery as to what compelled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress to agree to the inclusion of Mr A Raja of the DMK in the Union Cabinet after this summer's general election. With its impressive tally and the reduced strength of its allies in the UPA, the Congress could have told DMK chief M Karunanidhi that it would not include a controversial politician, accused of converting the Telecom Ministry into a 'cash-and-carry' counter, in the Cabinet and the party was welcome to nominate somebody else. After all, the Congress did bargain hard and used rifts within the Karunanidhi clan to ensure the exclusion of another controversial politician, Mr TR Baalu, who ran amok in the Ministry of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping. Even if the Congress failed to block the entry of Mr Raja, the Prime Minister could have denied him the Telecom Ministry as his past record, to put it mildly, was dubious. Yet, despite all the tall talk of keeping tainted individuals out of the Government, we have not only witnessed the return of Mr Raja to his previous Ministry but unrestrained efforts made by him and his associates to suppress the truth about his misuse of power. What is equally, if not more, astonishing is the Prime Minister's silence which could suggest that he is being indulgent towards Mr Raja. This is no doubt an unfortunate conclusion, but there really can be no other explanation as to why the Prime Minister appears indifferent towards the various allegations that have been levelled against Mr Raja, each one of them based on substantive evidence of wrong-doing. From short-changing the nation by allocating spectrum at a throw-away price to bogus firms which then reaped a windfall profit by reselling it to foreign companies, to influencing BSNL contracts and other such deals, a range of charges have been levelled against Mr Raja. All this and more has left the Prime Minister, whose publicists are given to making a display of his claimed fetish for integrity and probity, unmoved.

In recent days, there have been repeated demands in Parliament to probe the allegations and uncover the truth. The Opposition has been vociferous in protesting against Government's inaction and has ruthlessly listed Mr Raja's sins of omission and commission, especially in the allocation of spectrum on a 'first-come-first-serve' basis, instead of competitive bidding, to unknown entities at ridiculously low rates. The two beneficiaries, Unitech and Swan, who paid an entry fee of Rs 1,651 crore, later sold their share for a whopping Rs 10,000 crore. Such transactions don't have a hint of scandal, they reek of corruption. It is obvious that rules were invented, and not merely manipulated, to benefit entities and individuals. Having failed to prevent what has been described as a loot, it is the Government's responsibility to order a full-fledged inquiry into the allocation of spectrum, get to the bottom of the scam, fix accountability and punish the guilty. This is precisely what the Opposition has been clamouring for; sadly, this is also precisely what the Government has been stonewalling in the most brazen manner.

The Prime Minister must step in and do the morally and legally right thing by either ordering a CBI inquiry or allowing Parliament to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee. Not to do either would be tantamount to condoning corruption at high places which cannot but be a blot on the image of the Government and cast a shadow on the Prime Minister. Surely he wouldn't want that to happen.

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