New Delhi: Admitting to "some unfortunate incidents" in telecom policy implementation and the conduct of the Commonwealth Games, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday assured the Parliament that his government would do everything to "clean up" public life.
Talking about the controversial 2G spectrum allocation, he said, "If there is a scam, it must be dealt with. Law of the land will punish the wrong doers."
At the same time, he said, "We must not overlook the fact that there is tremendous growth in the telecom sector which has taken place."
Defending the 2G spectrum policy adopted by the government in 2008, the PM pointed to the fact that the tele-density in the country has risen to 66 percent in the present day from just 7.02 percent in 2004, when the UPA government came to power.
While referring to the accusation regarding the allocation of spectrum on first-come-first-serve basis, the PM said that his government had only followed the National Telecom Policy of 1999.
“When I looked at the telecom situation in 2007-08, the proposal that came to me (allocation of spectrum) was that the industry was not in favour of auction. It (first-come-first-serve policy) had the support of TRAI and concerned ministry and I felt that for a level playing field we should follow the policy.”
“The way in which the policy was implemented had problems and they are being looked into by the JPC, PAC and the criminal aspects by the CBI. The government will ensure all cooperation to ensure that truth comes out on the telecom controversy”, he said.
Adding, “We must not overlook the fact that there is tremendous growth of telecom sector on basis of sound policy.”
He defended the telecom policy, which was pursued since 1999, saying it had paid "rich dividends" and said the fault lay with the implementation.
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the government auditor, has quantified revenue loss of over Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer due to the sale of 2G airwaves in 2008 by the former telecom minister A Raja, who was arrested by the CBI earlier this month amid charges of his alleged involvement in manipulating the policy to favour select industrial houses.
Replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on Motion of Thanks to the President`s Address, Dr Singh also said everything would be done to bring back black money stashed abroad as "we are
one with Opposition" on the issue.
Underlining that the problem of black money had not occurred only four to five years back but was older than that, he said that the government was ready to "sit" with all the parties to discuss how to deal with it and "all constructive suggestions" would be considered.
Cabinet didn’t approve ISRO-Devas deal
The PM also touched upon the controversy surrounding the ISRO-Devas deal on S-band spectrum.
He said that the government had taken a policy decision that in the light of the country`s strategic requirement, will not provide orbit slot in S-band to Antrix for commercial activities "including for those which are the subject matter of existing contractual obligation for S-band."
He reiterated that the PMO had no role in the deal. He said, “Cabinet was not informed that the 2005 agreement between ISRO`s commercial arm Antrix and Devas also involved allocation of S-band spectrum to the private firm.”
Dr Singh asserted that no allocation for terrestrial spectrum had been made by the government to either Antrix or Devas and therefore, the figures of costing of lakhs of rupees have "no basis".
Scams will be dealt with
The Prime Minister responded point-by-point to various issues raised by the members concerning corruption, inflation, internal security and foreign policy.
Referring to the scams that were highlighted by the members, Dr Singh said, "I don`t deny that unfortunate developments have taken place in the areas of telecom and Commonwealth Games."
He said these concerns are being addressed and whenever "credible and actionable evidence" is being found, action is taken. In this regard, he pointed out that Chief Ministers and Union Ministers have resigned after allegations were leveled against them and that the CBI is on the trail of these scams.
"I assure this House that there is nothing that we will not do in order to clean our public life," Dr Singh asserted.