- Praveen Swami
- Sandeep Joshi
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has admitted that pressure from the former Telecom Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, forced the pricing of 2G spectrum out of the purview of a Group of Ministers set up to deal with the issue.
“It is certainly true that one draft was prepared, and it included spectrum prices,” Dr. Singh told reporters on Tuesday en-route from New York to New Delhi.
Mr. Maran, the Prime Minister said, then objected, arguing that “spectrum pricing is the bread and butter and the integral part of the terms of the business of his department.” “In any case,” Dr. Singh paraphrased Mr. Maran as saying, “a large group of Ministers sitting here is not going to be able to deal effectively with the complicated and technical aspects involved.”
“I came to the conclusion that by agreeing with the Minister’s [Dayanidhi Maran’s] point of view would not sacrifice anything which is essential to the success of the process.”
Mr. Maran voiced his concerns in a February 28, 2006 letter to the Prime Minister. In the letter, he complained that the terms of reference for the Group of Ministers on 2G spectrum issues “impinge upon the work normally to be carried out by the Ministry [Department of Telecommunications].”
Back in 2006, the Prime Minister explained, the government’s “real concern was how we should persuade the Defence Ministry to release spectrum and how that spectrum should [be made available] to the civilian economy.” Mr. Maran’s request was, therefore, acceded to.
In 2007, a note prepared earlier this year by the Finance Ministry for the Prime Minister’s Office records, the Department of Telecommunications precluded further involvement of the Department of Economic Affairs in spectrum pricing. The Finance Ministry did not subsequently pursue the issue.