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2g Spectrum Scam

  • Date Submitted: 03/27/2011 11:23 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 56 
  • Words: 2555
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January 10, 2008, was not an exceptionally wintry day in New Delhi. As usual, the fog had set in, delaying trains and planes. Much of the southern part of the city was a gigantic construction zone for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Morning FM radio broadcasts had angry calls from commuters stuck in traffic.
Inside Sanchar Bhawan in central Delhi, housing the head office of the Department of Telecommunications, or DOT, there was chaos of a different kind. A scrappy queue that afternoon on the ground floor of the 13-storey building got so unruly that one person fell down face first ending up with cut lips and a bloody mouth. Mahendra Nahata, Chairman of HFCL, tried to gatecrash the reception area and was escorted out by a security guard.
Those in the raucous queue, most clutching Rs 1,651 crore worth of bank drafts, were putting in applications for new mobile phone service licenses with a promise of wireless spectrum that came virtually free. Those ahead in line had a better chance of entering a market of nearly 500 million phone customers. The afternoon was to make the headlines nearly three years later. On November 10, 2010, the Comptroller and Auditor General, or CAG, released a report saying the chaotic events at the DOT office that day caused a "presumptive" Rs 176,000 crore loss to the national exchequer - an amount that would have nearly erased the borrowings of the Central government in 2007-08.
The CAG did not say as much but the message was clear: the manner in which the Telecom Minister Andimuthu Raja and Siddharth Behura, Telecom Secretary and the Chairman of the Telecom Commission, had issued the licences was not above board. Both Raja and Behura are the subject of an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, or CBI, as are other government officials from the time and some of India's top businessmen, including Anil Ambani and Prashant Ruia. Raja is in jail.
Firms that won the licences they staked for in January 2008 were like winners of a...

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