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The Real Scam

B K Syngal
Former CMD Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL)
 
  B K Syngal |  | 16/11/2013

The real scam in the telecom sector is 57 licences issued to four leading telecom firms – Aircel (14), Idea (2), Vodafone (7), RCOM (15) and Tata (19). They obtained licensees defying a cabinet approved policy of 2003, progressively from 2006 onwards until 2007. They acquired spectrum in 2008 at administered price of 2001, alongside the disgraced 122, because of a kink created by tweaking the Unified Access Service Licence (UASL) guidelines in 2005 December by Maran. The kink was abolishment of Cellular Mobile Telecom Service (CMTS) license and introduction of UASL license without spectrum.

The UASL license stated that there is no guarantee of spectrum. It will be made available when possible. This was an innocuous way of subverting the system with a clear intent of malafide as manifest from the events unfolded leading to the scam.

I firmly hold the view that somebody within the government is shielding and suppressing truthful and factual information, thus preventing the cancellation of spectrum to these 57 licensees, who are the high and mighty of the corporate India.

These 57 licenses are as much part of the scam as were 122, if not more. They are beneficiaries of the flawed, abused recommendations of 2007 and most importantly they all got spectrum post 10 January 2008.

Two main flaws were: No auction of 2G for some convoluted reasoning of creating an uneven playing field, the combination of technology and not suggesting any remedy should demand exceed supply. So much so, the Regulator turned a blind eye when scam was unfolding. All the 177 (except 1) got spectrum post 10 January 2008 pursuant to the two press releases of the same date. It must also be pointed out that all the licenses and spectrum allocations to them were caveated by a statement that they are subject to any actions by the courts, no guarantee of spectrum and are provisional, conditional subject to cancellation without assigning any reasons.

Therefore the department of telecommunications (DOT) or the government of India (GOI) has ample ammunition to revisit these licenses for any course correction, like enhancing spectrum price.

The recent reports, extensively reported, in the media that the crooks are getting away with murder is nothing short of a sacrilege or a massacre of a system.  This mockery of the system is all because of a senior law officers'' opinion on a matter involving some Rs 40,000 crore and the main cause of the two auction failures of November 2012 and March 2013. The law officers' opinion is flawed, because wrong questions beget wrong answers resulting in this subversion of the system causing losses to the tune of thousands of crores.

The same crooks who subverted the system in 2001-2003 resulting in the legitimisation of limited mobility to full mobility are at play both amongst the players and at DOT. The same players submitted false affidavits and suppressed information resulting in what happened in 2001-2003. The same guy/guys are at work today to protect them yet again.

The players remain Reliance (subverting systems is in their genes, recent UL license) and Tata (Radia tapes), an officer is a common denominator.  The other three Aircel (a la Maran CBI case), Idea (Birla) and Vodafone (who double speak) are no holy cows. They are all (5 of them) violators of a policy of 4 GSM players and any spectrum allocation post 2003 policy has to be via an auction, why then this largesse to these 57 at administered price of 2001 in 2008 by a PDS like distribution.

The 2003 policy clearly enunciated the process for the induction of 5 and 6th licenses by auction conjoined upon the recommendations of the TRAI on timing and availability of spectrum. The falsehood created by Reliance and Tata is that they are old existing licenses, then why did they pay Rupees 1658 crore to acquire another license in the name of rural india and aam admi.

How could the other 23 get a 5th or 6th license without any auction or TRAI recommendations, because of the kink by Maran in 2005 to tweak the UASL policy to benefit Aircel and also issue few more to Idea and Vodafone as cover up or a camouflage? The reasons or results of subversion are for all to see.

The question must be asked, why on earth was the allocation of spectrum for these 57 kept in abeyance, if they were all within rules of an approved policy of 2003 and or 2007? Tata in any case applied for the combination of technology after 10 January 2008 and received spectrum much later. They all take shelter under third party interests, Aam Aadmi and Rural India. They are the bane of our society.

The opinion of PP Rao is most flawed because of all the wrong questions and creating distractions that let us await a Supreme Court decision on combination of technology issue, which will never come. In all this hullabaloo, these guys (57) are sitting pretty causing losses to the government and creating three categories of licenses: up to May 2004, from 2006 to 2008, and 2012 onwards.

This anomaly needs immediate course correction. The least the government can do is to issue letters to them reading the riot act alerting them that they will have to pay either an indexed price for the spectrum they hold or the auction determined price of November 2012, or March 2013 or January 2014. There smarting under a flawed opinion has to stop. DOT has to act. DOT will only act if the lynchpins are not part of the process and kept away from any discussion in the matter.

The questions to be asked are:

What was the October/November policy of 2003 in respect of fresh licenses with spectrum, ie 5th and 6th licenses?
Did not the policy mention about E-auction and licenses to be issued only after consultation with
TRAI on timing and availability of spectrum?
If so, why were these licenses issued from 2006 onwards?
Were these 57 not the 5th and 6th licenses including the combination of technology?
Having issued these licenses, why were the allocations of spectrum held back until 10 January 2008?
Why did not TRAI intervene, when scam was unfolding?
Which new license, with spectrum, in the history of licensing has been issued by DOT on FCFS basis?
Has not the inaction of DOT, not created an uneven level playing field, by doling out cheap spectrum to these 57?
When was the spectrum allocated to these 57 licensees?

I have no interest vested or otherwise except fair play and duty to the nation. I hate to create a scarecrow, but everyone must be watchful of the fact that system will catch up at some time. For anybody it is clear that this is a day light robbery. I can defend every word of what I have stated.

    
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