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.
Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin
Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.
The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.
Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.
Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.
Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.
Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told
The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.
The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.
Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.
DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.
The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.
The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.
But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.
It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.
Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus
New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.
Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.
The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.
According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.
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