Planning Commission official questioned by JPC on 2G

A senior bureaucrat was questioned by JPC on 2G on her `failure` to raise the issue of revision of entry fee for universal access service licences.

New Delhi: A senior bureaucrat was on Thursday questioned by JPC on 2G on her `failure` to raise the issue of revision of entry fee for universal access service licences at the meeting of the Telecom Commission after the government allocated the controversial 2G licences.

Secretary Planning in the Planning Commission Sindhushree Khullar appeared before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in her capacity as Additional Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs between April, 2007 and November, 2008.

She told the Committee that the agenda of the January 15, 2008 meeting included spectrum pricing and not entry fee. The meeting, which was earlier to take place on January 9, 2008, was postponed to January 15 after the 2G licences were allocated.

When asked why she did not raise the issue of entry fee with the permission of the Telecom Commission Chairman, she replied that she did not feel it appropriate to take up the matter when it was not listed, JPC Chairman P C Chacko said.

There had been demands to call Khullar as she, along with then Finance Secretary D Subbarao, had reportedly opposed DoT`s proposal to allocate spectrum at 2001 prices.

On a question whether it was eventually agreed between the Finance Ministry and the DoT that the spectrum beyond 6.2 Mhz would be charged, Khullar said while discussions continued in the Finance Ministry, she was not a party to it.

Records with JPC show there was an agreement, Chacko said.

On being asked about using a `non-paper` for communicating views of the Finance Ministry to DoT, she informed that it was used in the form of an `approach paper` which formed the basis of discussion between the Finance Secretary and the Secretary, Telecom in the meetings which were to take place in due course.

Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI slammed the Finance Ministry for not being "serious on important issue by using non-papers". Shashi Tharoor of the Congress said the document was actually not a "non-paper" as it had a header and was signed.

His remarks were termed by Dasgupta as an attempt to "shield" a witness. After a brief exchange of words, Dasgupta staged a walkout.