This is with reference to the report, “Centre seeking to change auction terms to benefit telecoms: Congress” (October 5). The Congress media chief’s accusation that the Narendra Modi government is helping select telecom firms by abusing its discretionary powers, thereby causing an interest loss of Rs 23,821 crore to the exchequer, should not be dismissed as political rhetoric.
The Congress is right in asserting that the government’s unilateral deferment of recovery of a substantial part of the spectrum auction amount by six years violates a Supreme Court’s directive on auction of natural resources, with no room for executive discretion in the matter.
The party’s media head alleged that an inter-ministerial committee recommended alteration of auction terms and this was approved by both the telecom ministry and the Telecom Commission to allow the payment of Rs 33,789.12 crore within 16 years instead of the original 10 years. If the allegation is true, this is a case of extending undue financial accommodation to telecom giants such as Reliance Jio, Airtel and Idea in a surreptitious manner and against public interest.
The case becomes more serious if the recommendation to alter the terms of payment to the advantage of these telecom companies and to the country’s financial detriment was made after the auction was over.
As contended by the Congress, the plea of financial hardship made by the companies did not merit such a bonanza, considering that the Supreme Court rejected an identical plea in the case of Adani Enterprises Consortium on April 11, 2017.
If the Modi government goes ahead with such a questionable concession, it is bound to face political turbulence on a scale even greater that what the second term of the United Progressive Alliance faced over the 2G controversy.
S K Choudhury Bengaluru
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