The meeting of the Union Cabinet scheduled for today was postponed, as many ministers who were to participate were away on official tours. Officials said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unwell today and this was another reason for the postponement. The meeting is now expected to be held tomorrow.
In the meeting, the Cabinet was scheduled to discuss several important proposals, including the reserve price and usage charges of the telecom spectrum to be auctioned, in line with a Supreme Court order. It was also scheduled to take up the long-pending amendments to the Forward Contracts Regulation Act (FCRA).
An empowered group of ministers (EGoM) headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram has suggested a 20 per cent lower base price, or reserve price, at Rs 14,000-15,000 crore for 5 MHz of airwaves, against the Rs 18,000 crore recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, for the auction of spectrum vacated after the Supreme Court order. The EGoM has proposed to fix a price of 1.3 times the base price as the floor for companies to bid for airwaves currently being used to provide CDMA services.
Amendments to the FCRA were postponed twice last month, owing to opposition from the Trinamool Congress and the absence of Agric-ulture Minister Sharad Pawar from Cabinet meetings. The amendments, if approved, would give more teeth to commodity markets regulator, Forward Market Commission. These would also open the doors to options trading in commodity futures.
Amendments to FCRA were first cleared through an ordinance. However, this had lapsed, as the 14th Lok Sabha could not clear the Bill due to opposition from Left parties. In September 2010, the Cabinet again cleared the amendments to the Act and introduced the Forward Contracts (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2010, in Parliament, following which the draft Bill was referred to a parliamentary standing committee.
Officials said the standing committee had suggested various changes, many of which did not find favour with the consumer affairs ministry and, therefore, the original version of the amendments would prevail.