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NEW DELHI: As the Lok Sabha on Thursday adopted the motion to set up a 30-member Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to go into the allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum from 1998 to 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claimed that the policy (on spectrum allocation) adopted by the UPA regime “was sound, [but] the way it was implemented, I think, gave rise to problems.”
The JPC report is to be submitted to Parliament by the end of the next session. It will examine telecom policy and implementation related to licence and spectrum allocation, look at irregularities and its consequences and formulate recommendations to ensure proper procedures for allocation and pricing.
The debate on the motion saw lively exchanges between Communications Minister Kapil Sibal and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj with Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee also having his say. Dr. Singh did not intervene in the debate. But, earlier in the day, while replying in the Lok Sabha to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President's address, he admitted to problematic implementation of the telecom policy.
“People ask me why then all these concerns about the wrongdoings. My respectful answer to that is that when I looked at the telecom situation in 2007-2008, the proposals that came to me was that the Ministry had decided not to go in for auctions [of 2G spectrum] … it had the support of the technical arm of the telecom regulatory system, the TRAI; it had the support of the Ministry concerned; and I felt that for a level playing field, it was entirely appropriate that we should continue on the path which we had followed until 2007,” Dr. Singh said.
Elaborating further, he said: “Then subsequently it turned out to be that while the policy was sound, the way it was implemented, I think, gave rise to problems.” Those problems would now be looked into by the JPC, the Public Accounts Committee; and if there were any criminal aspects, they would be looked into by the CBI. “Our government will fully cooperate with all these agencies and with all these entities to ensure that the truth comes out and guilty are punished.”
According to the JPC motion, unanimously adopted by the Lok Sabha by voice vote, it would have 30 members, 20 from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha. The motion made it clear that the JPC report would cover telecom policy and implementation during the NDA as well as the UPA regimes.
Earlier, Mr. Mukherjee, recalling the lost winter session, said: “Parliament cannot be mortgaged to the conceding of a demand.”
Ms. Swaraj pooh-poohed the allegation reminding the Congress that it had disrupted the proceedings for 77 hours demanding a JPC on Tehelka expose issue during the NDA regime. On 2G spectrum issue, she asked: “If [the former Communication Minister] Mr. Raja was not at fault and there was zero loss to the exchequer why was he behind bars? And why was the CBI frequently asking for extension of his remand?”
Mr. Sibal alleged that a CAG report related to the NDA period had written about a loss of Rs.12,214 crore caused by allotment of 2G spectrum beyond 6.2 MHZ. Who would go to jail for this loss? he said.
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