Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Missed Call from the Government!

...Last month was the budget month and much has been talked about the 6000 Crore farm loan waiver. Much water has been drowned down the drain since then and people including the media are still euphoric about the funding from which the actual waiver is going to be provided from. Some people were even of the opinion that why should the finance minister take away the tax paying industry's money to fund the financial irresponsibility of some farmers, whatever may be the root cause for their suicides..

...one important issue that was set aside or rather given a look-away during this period involved the granting of the electromagnetic spectrum to the cell phone service providers. The story goes back to the time when Mr Jagmohan was the communications minister in teh BJP Regime...the government auctioned the cell phone licences, and invited tenders. People who made realistic bids lost to some big sharks who made thrice or four times the logical bid amount, for their call was simply outrageously huge to others. Naturally, after a while, the W found themselves in a position wherein they could not pay the pledged amount. Jagmohan, the firebrand from the Sanjay Gandhi era, he was, took the rightful step in cancelling the licenses of these firms. Thus the people who made logical bid amounts got a second chance as the gamblers had gone bankrupt... and it was all a fair-play game till now...

...the business media and papers took the stage and manipulated public opinion in such a way that Jagmohan was soon shunted out to the culture ministry. In came people who had the "wherewithal to bring in the communication revolution for the new age India". The media side by side .. suggested operators may not be made to pay for a blunder that the government did and also advocated a 'Revenue sharing licence fee model'.... Thus, the government waived off huge sums of that 'pledged money'...those who made logical bid amounts again lost out to the sharks, but now did not even have to pay the promised outrageous amount. One rule for the multi millionaires.. and another for the common man...Is this another of those paradoxes or double standards that we see in our plural India?

fast forward to 2008, and we are in the middle of the grant of Electro-magnetic spectrum for 3G services...government is allocating licences for the spectrum for 3G and Wi-Max services...UPA minister A Raja, learning from the earlier debacle.. decided that he will not go for an open bid process but on a FCFS (first come first serve) basis of allotment. within few seconds of the press note being issued inviting MoI, RComm came up with a ready-in-hand demand draft (so did RComm knew what the goverment how the govt was going about...) amounting to crores... thus, the very same day, RComm who till now was just a CDMA service provider, got licence to run GSM services and 3G. had the government gone in for an auction system, it would have got crores of rupees on the exchequer as earnest money and interests, but it simply choose to waive it off.

It is to be kept in mind that Electromagnetic spectrum is a rare, and fixed commodity a nation has, and has even got security ramifications. The excesses, BJP did during their time, the UPA is just following the same path, and the powers-be namely the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi, under whom the NAC functions have been a mute spectator to all this. The man who revolutionised the telecom sector during the 1980's Mr Sam Pitroda, advisor to Sonia Gandhi on such matters, too has been quite equivocal on this issue.


(Statistics & Other facts and figures, courtesy TRAI website and TRAI Open House Meeting)

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