Thursday, 22 September 2011

Media's experiments with the truth

There is no second thought about we being at the cross roads of what seems to be an unparallel chaos in Indian political history. The financial losses (or under recoveries) the ex-chequer has suffered because of the recent spell of scams, in past year and two, is much greater than the sum total of all the misdoings since Independence (inflation adjusted)

But, instead of snatching it away, we got to give it to UPA for bringing it to light. In the years, since 2006, there has been an accelerated access to information, thanks to the Right to Information act, which has been extremely instrumental in bringing forth the cronyism breeding inside the closets of such ministers. Corruption is not a new phenomenon, it has been taking place since Independence, at the national, state and even district level, and those who refute it are in a phase of blatant ignorance. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was never seen in such activism in the preceding years and governments, the obvious reasons being the strings attached to its independent functioning. UPA has not only given us a right to transparent information, investigating agencies like CBI and CVC have got wings enough under this government to go after the mischievous elements.

Coming to the latest insinuation, which has been doing the rounds in the news channels and esteemed columns vis-à-vis the alleged misdoing on the behalf of then finance minister, Mr. Chidambram in the allocation of 2G spectrum, media will feed anything that will sell. The present home minister being allegedly involved in a scam mounting to Rs.1.76 lakh crore is something and everything the audience will stick to, advertisers will sell to and news channels will party to. And the cycle goes on.

The report of comptroller and auditor general, on the allocation of 2G spectrum was an observation on the financial omission committed by the then DoT and EGoM, which lead to the exchequer suffering mounting charges of Rs.1,76,000 crores, calculated on the basis of prices of 3G auctions. The CAG, with all his constitutional authority, can comment on the policies of the government which he thinks are economically inefficient, but, how can someone (Mr. Subranayam Swami in this case) establish criminal culpability on a policy decision that a cabinet minister or the cabinet, as a body, took? Our constitution gives the power to the cabinet to take a decision regarding a policy it deems essential, fit to pursue public interest. Had not the 2G licenses been allotted to the telecommunication companies at those prices, India would never have experienced the teledensity and mobile penetration of over 85%. Even the one second pulse, brought in by Tata Docomo, was given GSM licences according to the policy adopted by the government. There was nothing criminal in the policy of assigning spectrum without auctions, for auctions when initially adopted for 2G during the NDA regime had led to unrealistic prices and companies eventually defaulting on their payments. It was then decided, that to achieve teledensity of the level we have today, auctions can be avoided and a new formula for granting of licenses has to be adopted.

Mr. A Raja, is in Tihar, not for adopting this policy, as can be wrongly inferred from the media’s projection of polished truth. There is a criminal case against him for changing the deadlines of applications for spectrum allocation at his whims and allocating the bandwidth to companies having very less or no experience at all in the field of telecommunication. These companies then made colossal profits, by selling their shares to genuine telecommunication players at swollen prices and that is when crony capitalism enriched Mr. A Raja and a few others. Mr. Chidambram, cannot be held criminally responsible for giving his nod to a policy that brought about a revolution in our mobile telephony sector. Agreed, that when these licenses were distributed, the nation already had 4-5 players in each telecommunication circle, but the price battle between the various operators after the entry of a string of them enormously benefitted the end customer with average price of a local call dropping to around 30-40 paisa.

True, that people of this nation have become sensitive, thanks to tons of skeletons of corruption being dug. We all need to be a little more pragmatic before we jump into unsolicited conclusions, for headlines are always meant to be catchy, but it is the inside news that give us the real taste.


Kundu said...

As far as the question of criminal culpability of Chidambaram is concerned, I am not a competent authority to comment so I would not. Let the court do its duty.

But I would Like to point out a factual error in your blog Kanav. you said," .......establish criminal culpability on a policy decision that a cabinet minister or the cabinet, as a body, took? Our constitution gives the power to the cabinet to take a decision regarding a policy it deems essential, fit to pursue public interest."
According to the telecom policy enacted by NDA in 2003, the final say on the issue of pricing will be of the Finance Minister and the telecom Minister. The latter cannot go forth on his own!

Kanav Sharma said...

The cabinet of UPA 2 had taken the decision of going on with the 2003 spectrum prices. It was a collective decision and hence the criminal culpability of any individual regarding this cannot be constitutionally established. the cabinet has the powers (all legal) to take such decisions. It could have further decided to sell the sepctrum at Re.1 and the decision would have been irrational, humiliating but perfectly legal!

Kundu said...

I said I am not commenting on the legality of the decision of the Cabinet. The policy decisions such as the one regarding the pricing is a perfectly legitimate one(at least legally). What I pointed out is a factual error which says that it was to be a cabinet's decision but the fact is it was to be a collective decision of finance and telecom minister. The finance minister buckled under the advice of cabinet(which is perfectly legitimate and I don't blame Chidambaram for it). But whoever the advice the finance minister was following, factually it were they two who took and were to take the decision.