2G: PMO dismisses rpt on PM looking the other way

Last Updated: Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 20:35

New Delhi: The PMO on Sunday dismissed
suggestions that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sought to
look the other way in issuance of controversial 2G spectrum
licenses and said suggestions had been made informally to the
Department of Telecom to ensure that there was level-playing
field between the existing operators and new entrants.

The Prime Minister`s Office cited a communication of
January 23, 2008 sent to DoT and insisted that it was in no
way related to the "manner of grant of licence or charges for
spectrum up to the threshold level".

"A number of unwarranted inferences have been drawn
from this noting without considering the issue that was being
examined and the context in which these directions were
conveyed.

"In particular, an impression is sought to be created
that the noting was in response to the Prime Minister being
informed of steps being taken which he knew were inappropriate
but he looked the other way," the PMO said in a statement as
the government braced for an opposition attack on 2G issue in
Parliament`s Monsoon Session commencing on Monday.

The clarification came in the wake of a media report
regarding a noting of the Private Secretary to the Prime
Minister conveying the directions of the Prime Minister on a
matter relating to the allocation of spectrum.

The noting in question was recorded on January 23,
2008 and stated that `PM wants this informally shared with the
Department (of Telecom). (He) does not want a formal
communication and wants PMO to be at arms length.`

In its clarification, the PMO said the noting was on a
note proposing consideration of an approach which included
fixing of a `threshold` level of spectrum that each operator
must have in order to function with a minimum level of
efficiency.

The January 23, 2008 note also said that "existing
operators holding spectrum above the threshold level may be
allowed a certain amount of time to raise the subscriber
levels to reach full utilisation of spectrum, failing which
the excess spectrum may be withdrawn.

"New operators may be allotted spectrum only up to the
threshold level on payment of the normal fees.

"The balance spectrum may then be auctioned among all
those who hold spectrum up to the threshold level," the PMO
statement said.

It said it was clear from the note that the "approach
was intended to create a level-playing field between existing
operators and new entrants. It did not deal with either issues
relating to manner of grant of license or charges for spectrum
up to the threshold level."

The proposal of the Prime Minister`s Office was to
forward these suggestions to the Department of Telecom for
further consideration on the basis of individual consultations
with the main players and TRAI, the statement said.

The PMO noted that "it was well known at that time
that there were conflicting interests between existing
operators and new entrants. The Prime Minister felt that this
matter required detailed examination and deliberation by the
Department of Telecom in consultation with TRAI and others."

The Prime Minister had "felt that, under the
circumstances, it was not appropriate for the Prime Minister`s
Office to pronounce on the matter till the subject had been
carefully considered by the administrative ministry in
consultation with TRAI and other concerned departments," it
said, adding, "Therefore, it was sent as an informal
suggestion to the Department of Telecom for consideration."

This, the statement said, "clearly brings out that the
noting under question can in no way be construed to mean that
the Prime Minister or his office looked the other way on
matters relating to the grant of licence or spectrum charges
etc.

"It related solely to the manner in which the approach
summarized above should be conveyed to the Department of
Telecom to be considered on merits without being viewed as a
direction from the Prime Minister or his office."

PTI



First Published: Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 20:35

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