Reality Check India

CBI raids DoT offices over spectrum scam

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on October 24, 2009

The CBI raided some offices of the DoT seeking evidence about the 2G spectrum allocation irregularities.

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday raided top Department of Telecommunications (DoT) officials on allegations that they had colluded with private companies in issuing licences and allotting spectrum to new players on a first come, first served basis last year.

CBI officials searched the offices of, among others, deputy director general (access services-I) A.K. Srivastava and wireless adviser Ashok Chandra.

“The searches were done to collect incriminating documents linked to the irregular award of the licences,” said a CBI official who did not want to be named.

Source : HT

It would be helpful to recall the media’s complete unwillingness to follow the story when it broke. I know what you are thinking, “Gotcha RC, How can you link to stories in the media and then claim the medias deliberate silence ?” The answer is that there is a big difference between reporting a story and following a story.  The media coverage, with the notable exception of the Daily Pioneer,  was nothing more than repeating the newswire. We never had any interviews with the guys behind Dynamix Balwas, Tiger Trustees, Zebra and Parrot Holdings, Genex Exim (allocated 300Cr of Swan with only 1 lakh share capital) – who exactly are these guys who became billionaires overnight. Not one question was put in front of the then Finance Minister Mr P Chidambaram and the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Mr Raja claims that the entire process was approved by them.  Reality Check had covered the attitude of Mr Prabhu Chawla who wanted ‘clinching evidence‘ before following the story. Did you have clinching evidence before you followed Bofors in the 90’s ? Does the media have clinching evidence against Modi ? There is immense public interest in getting to the bottom of it as evidenced by the reactions blogs and other alternate media are getting for these corruption allegations.

Back to the CBI, are they serious about investigating the scam or are they forced to conduct raids as a formality following the complaints received by the CVC (Vigilance Commission) ?

To really answer this, we need to take a step back and lay out the facts as we know it.

1.  Swan, Unitech, Shyam became overnight billionaires. Holding nothing more than just a piece of paper, they were able to parlay their Rs 1650 Cr into 6 or 8 times their value in a matter of weeks. Telenor and Etisalat paid what most consider to be fair price for the spectrum (owned by the poor people of India, but social justice champions of dissent will not tell you that). Till date no one disputes that these companies made it big and that a national resource was compromised to make it happen. However, this does not alone mean there was a scam. It could have just been incompetence.

2. The allocation of licenses was messy, the dates were moved around, and at the time of actual allocation there was a melee at the Sanchar Bhawan. No one disputes the process was messy, maybe this is how first-come-first-served licenses are issued in India. However, this does not alone mean there was a scam. It could have just been incompetence.

3. So, there are only two possibilities. Either there was a massive scam or massive incompetence. The net result is a national resource was used to make some private parties very rich (billion dollar rich).

4. The media did not follow this smoking gun because the scam occurred so close to the elections. The BJPs tepid response to this is even scarier. As Mr Swapan Dasgupta says, were they managed ?  In the early 1990’s, the BJP could have rode this all the way to political victory. Of course, the media back then would pounce on every corruption story.

By raiding the DoT and prodding Mr Raja, the Congress party is up to its old tricks. The policy is “Tease but dont tickle”. Recall 1993 when the Congress party (Mr PV Narasimha Rao led) went to great lengths to defend a judge accused of corruption and defeated his impeachment motion.  Mr Kapil Sibal was instrumental in that historic episode too.

The Congress wants this to be seen as a DMK issue and not a UPA issue. They are also making the vaccine scam a Ramadoss issue (Azad Vs Ramadoss : PSU closure to be probed).  Both A Raja and Dr A Ramadoss have clearly stated that the Prime Minister and the cabinet was fully appraised of the activities and modalities.

What surprises me is the BJP’s statement.

BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “For a fair investigation into the matter, it is important that the Union Minister should immediately be removed from office.” Responding to a query that Raja had said that the allocation was made with approval of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prasad said that in that case the Prime Minister should clarify his position in the matter.

Source : Express Buzz

Mr Prasad makes the same mistake our confused educated elite make.

Exhibit 1 : After the terror attacks. At that time,  the cacophony included “Shivraj Patil has to go”, “PM should sack Shivraj”, “Sonia should ask Shivraj to resign”.

Exhibit 2 : After the farm crisis and farmers suicides. The cacophony turns into “Sharad Pawar must go”, “Pawar spending more time in BCCI than at Agriculture”

Exhibit 3 : After the quota -without -data episode. Arjun must go. Light up Arjuns effigy.

Exhibit Now : Raja must go. The PM should take action. PM should rein in xyz.

These people have no idea how little they are asking for.  “We like you but just make this tweak please” will get you nothing in a democracy (voting based selection).  The only way to ask for tweaking your favorite party in a democracy is by voting them out, even if another evil gets in, so the next time around they will come back tweaked. Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad is asking for a tweak instead of going for the kill.

Say, the PM persuades Raja to go. Does that solve anything ? What happens  to the beneficiaries ? Do they get to keep their Bentleys ?  Recall the cabinet just approved Telenors hike in its share of Unitech Wireless.   The Wall Street Journal reported the purchase value to be 37 billion rupees (about USD 800m).  Raiding these companies is not enough.  Under the Congress’s eyes, there  is another one in the making- the WiMax controversy.

Do you expect much from these raids, Mr Raja has already claimed that the cabinet and the Prime Minister (of the Congress party) were being fully updated about the going-ons. Mr Karunanidhi has already hinted at Congress’ involvement.

DMK sources in Chennai said Karunanidhi impressed upon the PM that he felt Raja was being unnecessarily humiliated, as he had consulted the PM on the spectrum allocation issue all along. The DMK stalwart also argued that the PM’s decision to retain Raja in the communications ministry was clear evidence of his innocence. He also pointed out that Congress had defended the communications minister all along both in Parliament and in public, and even campaigned for him in the Lok Sabha elections.

Source : TOI

That is his ticket to immunity.

The poor Indian people continue to watch billionaires emerge from their money. Of course, negative energy of this magnitude will never leave the system.

Earlier coverage on Reality Check

I wished other topical Indian blogs covered it in addition to their coverage of big ticket items like how to deal with China, Pakistan, and United States. We need to deal with the basics in the same way we cant really run a 100m sprint without taking that much required dump first.  Territory is just another national resource.

6 Responses

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  1. B Shantanu said, on October 25, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    RC: Thanks for an eye-opening post. Would you mind if I literally copy and paste this on my blog – as a guest post from you?

    I think the issues deserves SERIOUS attention and I am as nervous as you about the seeming indifference of MSM and MSPP (Mainstream Political Parties) on this.


  2. rc said, on October 25, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Be my guest Shantanu.

    One of the heros in this is of course J. Gopikrishnan of the Daily Pioneer who deserves accolades for his stellar investigative reporting.

  3. Dorian Brundage said, on October 21, 2010 at 5:33 am

    This is a very good blog page. I have already been back repeatedly during the last few days and want to register for your rss feed implementing Google but can’t find out the way to do it very well. Do you know of any sort of tutorials?

  4. dallas said, on December 3, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Amazing stuff.

  5. […] 24 2009 : CBI raids DoT offices over spectrum scam It would be helpful to recall the media’s complete unwillingness to follow the story when it […]

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