‘Maran rejected key telecom pricing proposal’

July 7th, 2011 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) Dayanidhi Maran, who quit the union cabinet Thursday, in 2006 rejected a key proposal from ministry of finance when he was communication minister that the telecom pricing policy should be decided by a group of ministers, a senior parliamentarian said Thursday.

P.C. Chacko of the Congress, who heads the Joint Parliamentary Panel (JPC) probing India’s telecom pricing policy in connection with the 2G scam, told reporters that the panel was informed about the “key suggestion” by secretary, economic affairs, R. Gopalan.

“The ministry of finance had suggested in 2006 that the group of ministers (on telecom) should decided about telecom pricing and this should be in the terms of reference of the (ministerial panel),” Chacko said, citing points from Gopalan’s briefing to the panel.

The JPC chief said that the “then telecom minister (Dayanidhi Maran) did not agree because he felt that the pricing policy is the prerogative of the administrative ministry”.

He said Maran’s rejection “had serious implications as the (telecom spectrum) pricing could have been discussed and decided at an appropriate forum”.

Maran, a senior DMK leader and the grand nephew of party chief M. Karunanidhi, was IT and communications minister from 2004-07. He was replaced by the DMK’s A. Raja, who quit last November after the Comptroller and Auditor General said his allocations of 2G spectrum had caused a presumptive loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore. Raja is currently in jail in connection with the 2G scam.

Maran resigned from the union cabinet Thursday, days after his name surfaced in irregularities in granting telecom spectrum licences to mobile phone service providers.

The panel in Thursday’s briefing started questioning witnesses in the scam and held a session with former Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chief M.S. Verma.

The former telecom secretaries who will testify before the multi-party parliamentary probe panel are A.V. Gokak, Anil Kumar, Shyamal Ghosh, Vinod Vaish, Nripendra Misra, J.S. Sharma, D.S. Mathur, Siddharth Behura and P.J. Thomas.

They held office between 1998 and 2008. Gokak and Vaish are scheduled to be quizzed Friday.

Other former TRAI chiefs — S.S. Sodhi and Pradip Baijal — have also been called to appear before the committee.

Apart from Raja and Behura, 12 others, including Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, have been jailed for their alleged involvement in the 2G scam.

The JPC has also called former attorney general Soli Sorabjee for questioning about alleged losses incurred due to changes in the telecom policy during Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) rule in 1999.

The BJP government had allowed operators to migrate from the fixed licence fee regime to the revenue-sharing model, which Chacko said had “huge financial” implications.

“Tentatively it caused a loss of Rs.43,523 crore. But we have asked the ministry of finance to recalculate the figure as some aspects have not been included,” Chacko said.

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