PM defends 2G airwaves auction process

New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) Giving a clean chit to his Communications Minister A. Raja pending conclusion of investigations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said the process followed on auction of airwaves to telecom companies was above board.

‘What he (Raja) did was implement a policy that was already in place,’ the prime minister told a press conference here, referring to process followed for auction of spectrum for second-generation (2G) telecom services at prices prevailing in 2001.

‘It would have been unfair to new entrants if a new yardstick was used.’

The question from the media was raised in the wake of charges that precious airwaves for 2G were sold to telecom firms at throwaway prices, resulting in losses worth billions of dollars, seen in the light of $15 billion the government will get from 3G spectrum auction.

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) have called for Raja’s resignation, calling 2G auction a 15-billion scam.

‘If the minister refuses to resign, the prime minister should sack him,’ the BJP said.

But the prime minister said no policy was flouted.

‘You have to look at it in proper perspective,’ he said, adding both the watchdog, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRA) and the Telecom Commission, had approved the policy on 2G auctions.

He said since complaints were received and the matter was being probed by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), it would be improper to comment any further.

‘Our government has been very clear on corruption. If I come to know that there is any involvement at any level, we will take action,’ Manmohan Singh said.

This was the first formal press meet to mark his second term as the prime minister of the year-old United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

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