The 2G Spectrum Scam is once again in news with media reports of the phone conversation details of top corporate lobbyist Nira Radia establishes Telecom Minister A Raja’s dubious role in awarding telecom licenses at a price lower than the market price.
Canary Trap brings you this timeline of Raja’s dubious role in the entire issue.
May 16, 2007:
A Raja was appointed as the Minister for Communications in Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet.
August 28, 2007:
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) set out detailed recommendations, primarily urging the government to determine the market prices of Spectrum licenses through a competitive mechanism, by auctioning to the highest qualified bidder.
August 28, 2007:
The Ministry of Communications, Department of Telecom (DoT), with A Raja as minister rejected the aforesaid TRAI recommendations; and insisted on following the earlier 2001 policy regarding pricing of Spectrum licences (i.e. licenses were to be allotted at fixed June 2001 licence fees, on a first-come-first served basis).
- In 2001, there were only 4 million cellphone subscribers; whereas by 2007-2008, the number of cellphone subscribers was around 350 million. Thus by fixing license fees at 2001 prices, the Telecom Ministry enabled companies that were allotted licenses to command huge premia.
September 20-25, 2007:
Raja’s old cronies, notably Unitech, Loop, Datacomm, and Swan (all of whom had had dealings with certain companies floated by his family), applied for the 2G Spectrum licenses. Unitech and Swan had no previous experience in the Telecom industry.
Two officers who had vigorously opposed the aforesaid DoT Policy (the Finance member and the Secretary of DoT) resigned/retired from government. The two others who had opposed undue favours to Swan were transferred. This cleared the way for an objection-free allotment to Raja’s cronies.
January 1-10, 2008:
Siddhartha Behura, Raja’s former Secretary in the Environment Ministry, was appointed Secretary of DoT. Ignoring Law Ministry notings urging that the matter be first vetted by a Group of Ministers, DoT issued its nine coveted licenses within 10 days (before Jan 10, 2008), mainly to the above mentioned four crony firms. This was done:
- In the teeth of notings regarding revenue losses to the government
- After unilaterally pre-poning the application deadline to September 25, 2007
- Swan sold 45 percent of its shares to Etisalat (a United Arab Emirates company) for $900 million (in 2008 around Rs 4,200 crores). The company had obtained its license for Rs 1537 crores.
- Unitech Wireless sold 60 percent of its shares to Telenor (a Norwegian company) for Rs 6,200 crores. Unitech had bought its only asset, the spectrum license, from DoT for Rs 1,661 crores.
- Tata Teleservices sold 26 percent of its shares to DoCoMo (a Japanese company) for Rs 13,230 crores.
- Based on the aforesaid sale of shares by Unitech and Swan, the market value of these 9 new 2G licenses amount to a total of Rs 70,022.42 crores, for which these 9 companies/conglomerates had paid DoT a total of Rs 10,772.68 crores.
- Thus DoT lost the difference, amounting to Rs 59,249.74 crores. Thus, by selling these 9 licenses at the lower price Raja caused a loss in the range of Rs 60,000 crores to the Indian exchequer.
November 15, 2008:
The Chief Vigilance Commission issued a showcause notice to Raja. Thereafter, on the basis of his investigation, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner sent a detailed report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reiterating the demand for Raja’s prosecution.
October 21, 2009:
The CBI registered an FIR in the scam.
November 29, 2008, October 31, 2009, March 8, 2010, March 13, 2010:
Dr Subramaniam Swamy wrote to the PM, demanding sanction to prosecute Raja. In the last letter, he pointed out that the Supreme Court on March 12, 2010 (in the government’s SLP) had refused to interfere with the Delhi High Court’s two judgments quashing the government allocation of the 2G Spectrum.
March 19, 2010:
The Indian government’s Department of Personnel wrote to Swamy that it “would be premature to consider sanction for prosecution at this stage” because evidence collected still being “perused”.
April 12, 2010:
Swamy filed an instant Writ Petition with the Delhi High Court.
April 28, 2010:
Details of tapes establishing Raja’s dubious role in the scam surfaces in the media. Opposition parties demanded that the PM sack Raja.