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2G scam lesson: Plan panel objects to new telecom policy

In Cabinet Today: Objects to making the minister sole authority for licence regime.

The Planning Commission has objected to provisions in the National Telecom Policy 2012 and the Unified Licensing Regime (ULR),which comes up for cabinet approval tomorrow,on the grounds that it could lead to a repeat of the 2G scam.

The commission has objected to giving the telecom minister the sole authority to “finalise the new ULR including the various categories of licences and services to be incorporated”,as well as the NTP 2012,and said that the final authority should be vested with the cabinet.

“It may be recalled that earlier in the matter of spectrum pricing,the cabinet in 2003 left the decision to minister of telecom and the finance minister,and that arrangement led to problems. In this case,the delegation proposed is more complete and even the finance minister is not involved. No justification has been provided why these issues should not come to the cabinet,” it said.

It added that there were “critical issues” within the ULR and the NTP 2012 that needed “elaboration and detailing”. “In the circumstances and keeping in mind that decisions involved may have large financial and economic implications,there is merit in having these decisions approved at the cabinet level,” said the commission.

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To this,the DoT’s reply harked back to the October 2003 cabinet decision which authorized it to finalise the details of the implementation of ULR with the approval of the telecom minister. “The limited purpose of seeking cabinet approval at this stage is on account of this change of scope that is,implementation of ULR excluding broadcasting services. All other elements and arrangements in the new ULR remain exactly as approved by the cabinet in 2003.”

The DoT has told the Department of Economic Affairs that all “shall be made available at a price determined through market related processes.” And that it would seek cabinet approval before implementing any new proposal stemming from the new policy that has financial implications: offering domestic telecom equipment makers loans for five-year period on subsidized terms in addition to a 10-year income-tax holiday and concessions on excise duty and VAT.

First published on: 31-05-2012 at 02:54 IST
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