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Raja debunks reports of differences with FM on spectrum
[November 19, 2008]

Raja debunks reports of differences with FM on spectrum


New Delhi, Nov 19, 2008 (Asia Pulse Data Source via COMTEX) --
Debunking charges that huge revenue had been lost because he ignored Finance Minister P Chidambaram's recommendations, Telecom Minister A Raja today said he had done no wrong and the government will rake in Rs 24,000 crore annually once new players start operations.



"We have absolutely no disagreement with the Finance Ministry over the spectrum and licence fee. We are working in consultation with each other and all decisions have been taken with prior permission of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," he told PTI in an interview.

"We have gone by the practice followed in the tenure of my predecessor (Dayanidhi Maran) or even before. We have given the licence at the same rate (Rs 1658 crore) as was given to a player in 2001... It was done just 10 days before I took charge in May, 2007," he said.


Raja was responding to queries regarding political allegations that the licences along with spectrum were given at throw away prices causing a loss of over Rs 50,000 crore to the government.

"There was a cartel before I took charge... It existed till recently, now I have broken it... Otherwise how come that so much of spectrum was available and it was never distributed?" he retorted to a query on the reason for the campaign against him including demand for his resignation.

Pooh-poohing the allegations of loss to the exchequer, he said now the focus is on taking in higher revenue share. Under the present dispensation, the government would get about Rs 12,000 crore as revenue share and licence fees.

"This is going to double once the new telecom players start operation and our subscriber base doubles to 600 million by 2012," he said.

"The entire issue was decided in a meeting the Prime Minister had with Finance Minister and myself. In fact, PM also asked me to educate the media about the technicalities and issues involved," Raja said.

Asked about some of the new players like Unitech and Swan Telecom making huge money by part sale of stake only on the basis of their licences, the minister said the explanation from these two had been obtained and forwarded to the Finance Minister.

"Finance Minister feels that this is no stake sale and rather it is dilution of the equity. The money that is coming through this route is being pumped into the company for roll out," he said.

Referring to reports that the Finance Ministry had opposed the licence fee criteria for the new players, Raja said: "Neither Mr Chidambaram nor I were involved in any such matter. There are no differences between us. Otherwise, how we are working together.

"There was communication at the Secretary level. Former Finance Secretary D Subbarao had written to the DoT in November 2007 and Telecom Secretary D S Mathur had replied stating that DoT was following TRAI recommendations. Even the Finance Ministry has closed the file. I am surprised as to why this is surfacing now," he said.

The minister said that vested interests are now trying to mislead the public about the latest round of spectrum (radio waves) allocation, saying that it should have been auctioned to get the right/market price for the scarce natural resource.

"I have always maintained that spectrum has been allocated to new players on the same terms and conditions and prices, as has been given to existing players as late as in 2007," he added.

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