New Delhi: Blaming former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the controversial migration policy for telecom operators approved in 1999, chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee probing 2G spectrum PC Chacko Tuesday said the decision was taken by the union cabinet when the communications portfolio was with Vajpayee.
Chacko, who addressing the media after a two-and-hour quizzing of former telecom secretary Anil Kumar (1998-2000) by the JPC at Parliament Annexe here, said the cabinet approval came despite dissenting notes on the policy from the outgoing communications minister Jagmohan and then finance minister Yashwant Sinha.
BJP leader Jaswant Singh, who is now a member of the JPC, was heading a group of ministers on telecom when the cabinet decision was taken, he added.
The dissent note from Jagmohan and the reservations expressed by the finance ministry, then headed by Sinha, are part of the documents available with the JPC.
Chacko said when Anil Kumar, who was secretary between August 1998 and February 2000, was confronted with the dissenting note of Jagmohan, he termed it as an observation in which the then telecom minister had wanted licensees to clear dues and come afresh.
Defending the then cabinet decision, Anil Kumar told the JPC that the migration policy was "good for the health and in the best interests" of the telecom industry and its implementation resulted in lower tariffs.
"Today, we are enjoying the fruits of that decision," Chacko quoted Anil Kumar as informing the JPC.
Jagmohan was moved to the urban development ministry in the backdrop of his relentless opposition to the new telecom policy. The policy, which included the migration policy from one-time license fee to revenue sharing model for telecom operators, was passed by the cabinet in 1999 with Vajpayee in charge of the telecom portfolio.
The former telecom secretary also sought to dismiss claims of losses due to the migration policy as pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as "hypothetical".
The CAG report of 2000 had said the migration policy had led to losses to the exchequer but had not quantified the same. The migration policy had allowed cellular operators to shift from fixed license fee regime to the revenue-sharing model.
The department of telecom (DoT) has informed the JPC that the exchequer lost over Rs.43,523.92 crore due to the migration policy.
Anil Kumar also told the JPC that the migration policy was necessary to make the new telecom policy of 1999 a success. "We would not have had the desired benefits of the new telecom policy of 1999 without the migration policy," he said.