Continuing his war of words with Ratan Tata, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar today alleged that contrary to claims of probity, the Tata group got spectrum allocated out of turn through change in policy to allow dual technology.
Responding to recent letter by Tata that he was acting at the behest of some political interests to embarrass Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the government and lobbied for a change in telecom policy that helped big GSM players, Chandrasekhar also questioned former telecom regulator Pradeep Baijal’s role in benefiting Tatas. In a veiled attack against Tatas’ PR consultant Niira Radia, whose taped conversations with him prompted Ratan Tata to take a public position and recourse to legal remedies, the MP asked authorities to keep focus of investigation on scam to weed out the lobbyists from the telecom sector. Ratan Tata had taken a strong exception to leakage and publication of the tape containing what he termed as private conversations and also talked about the erosion in governance. Reacting to the position of probity and transparency taken by Tata, Chandrasekhar had alleged that the conglomerate itself was beneficiary of policy changes, provoking Ratan Tata to issue a strong rebuttal.
“I completely stand by every word that I have written in my letter… Tata had raised the issue of flip-flop of policy, I would like to ask how did the Tata companies get UASL licences in new circles without going through the auction process (in 2003),” Chandrasekhar said in a statement.
Tata in his open letter had asserted that his group company Tata Teleservices had not been advantaged in any way by former telecom minister A Raja or any earlier minister. Tata had also asserted that the government’s telecom policy broke the powerful cartel.
He also backed the probe covering the period since 2001 when BJP-led NDA was in power. In his statement today, Chandrasekhar also questioned former TRAI Chairman Pradeep Baijal’s role as he was at helm of affairs when the telecom regulator recommended converting limited mobility into full mobility licences (called Unified Access Service Licence). After his retirement from TRAI, Baijal had joined a firm which was offering consultancy to Tata companies, he said. Chandrasekhar said he has chosen to issue a statement rather than responding to Tata’s open letter.
“Focus must remain on 2G spectrum scam investigations and speedy prosecution of all the guilty parties should become a national priority as this is important to rid the telecom sector once and for all of corruption, policy capture by Corporates and lobbyists,” he added.
In his statement, Chandrasekhar said, “I had originally planned to reply in detail to Ratan Tata’s response to my open letter, but in view of the Supreme Court statement today, I have decided against a continued public exchange of letters. “Because I do not wish to distract media and public from the recently launched and ongoing investigation into the spectrum scam(s), or give the false impression that this is a corporate war.
The investigation is a national priority. The recovery of the lost money is a national priority,” he said. “Why were certain policies of the government created, which the CAG has confirmed has caused loss to the public exchequer? Which corporate were the beneficiaries of such policies?
Who are the shadowy politicians and bureaucrats behind these benefits and beneficiaries – and their relationship with corporates/lobbyists?” the MP asked These need to be asked of all the companies and policymakers in telecom today including the Tatas, he added.
Throwing an open challenge he said, “I am willing to discuss the issues that were first raised in Tata’s interview” including those of policy flip-flop, out of turn allocation of spectrum and its hoarding. On the issue of spectrum hoarding, Tata had said that old GSM operators were holding excess spectrum and that too free of cost. Chandrasekhar said that companies which have got both CDMA as well GSM spectrum (Tata Teleservices and RCom) at 2001 price serve the least number of subscribers and also paid the minimum revenue to the government per MHz of spectrum (compared to old operators).
“I believe it’s time that the country learns the truth about the goings on in the telecom sector. All telecom companies who have benefited unfairly must come clean. I hope other companies – DB Telecom, Unitech, Reliance, Airtel, Vodafone etc will join this public debate too,” he added.