Listed by Time magazine as second on their Top Ten Abuses of Power (second only to the Watergate scandal) in 2011, the 2G Spectrum Scam involved politicians, bureaucrats and even a film personality.
Prominent journalists, Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi have been accused of a conspiracy of silence. It is alleged that they knew of the nexus, were privy to conversations and chose to suppress the information. It is possible that their timely exposure could have prevented the huge monetary losses.
As of date, this scam that is one of the biggest in the world is still just in the trial stage. The CBI charge sheet named a lot of people and companies who remain “accused”. Trials are on the Special Courts. One of the Prime accused, M.K. Kanimozhi is back in the Parliament as a Rajya Sabha MP.
There is no verdict given yet. In any case it is unlikely that the verdict is going to bring back the money into circulation.
The value of this scam is supposed to be in the region of $500 million.
Those involved made millions literally out of thin air and the money has gone into thin air.
While everyone has heard of it and knows it had to do with telephone licenses, the details of how the scam operated remain hazy. So what was it and where does it stand?
What it was
All telecommunications use airwaves (megahertz). Telecommunications include radio, mobiles and even the army radio communications. Each user is allocated different frequencies so that they don’t get scrambled into each other.
In 2008, the government decided to sell licenses to mobile companies for the 2G spectrum. Companies were going to be granted licenses on first-come-first-served basis. With a clever sleight of hand, the first-come-first-served policy was manipulated to be on the basis of who met the conditions first as against who applied first. Small change with big repercussions.
A. Raja, the then Minister for Communications and IT slickly used this change to make sure that the window for applying was very small so that those who were already in the know could give their completed applications and fees in perfect order. Companies got in the know by bribing Raja. Juxtaposing this change with the first-come-first-served policy, licenses were handed out at what was considered to be throwaway prices. Some of the companies didn’t even have previous telecom experience.
A PIL (Public Interest Litigation) was filed and on February 2, 2012 the Supreme Court declared the spectrum allocations as unconstitutional and arbitrary and invalidated all the 188 licenses issued during the tenure of Raja.
Companies Who Were Granted Licenses
- Adonis Projects Pvt. Ltd.
- Nahan Properties Pvt. Ltd.
- Aska Projects Ltd.
- Volga Properties Pvt. Ltd.
- Azure Properties Ltd.
- Hudson Properties
- Unitech Builders & Estates Pvt. Ltd.
- Unitech Infrastructures Pvt. Ltd.
- Loop Telecom Pvt. Ltd.
- Datacom Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
- Shyam Telelink Limited
- Shyani Telelink Limited
- Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd.
- Allianz Infratech (P) Ltd.
- Idea Cellular
- Spice Communications Ltd.
- S Tel
- Tata Teleservices
The Accused (as per CBI chargesheet)
- A. Raja former Union Cabinet Minister (Communication and Information 2007 and 2009)
- M. K. Kanimozhi MP
- Siddharth Behura Telecom Secretary when licenses were granted.
- RK Chandolia Raja’s private secretary when licenses were granted.
- Corporate Executives
- Sanjay Chandra Former MD, Unitech Wireless
- Gautam Doshi Group MD, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group
- Hari Nair Senior vice-president, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group
- Surendra Pipara Senior vice- President, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group
- Vinod Goenka Promoter and managing director, DB Realty & Swan Telecom
- Shahid Balwa Promoter, DB Realty & Swan Telecom
- Asif Balwa Director, Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables
- Rajiv Agarwal Director, Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables
- Sharath Kumar managing director, Kalaignar TV
- Ravi Ruia Vice chairman, Essar Group
- Anshuman Ruia Director, Essar Group
- Vikas Saraf Director for strategy and planning, Essar Group
- IP Khaitan Promotor, Loop Telecom
- Kiran Khaitan Promotor, Loop Telecom
- Film Personality
- Karim Morani Promoter and Director, Cineyug Films)
- Unitech Wireless
- Reliance Telecom
- Swan Telecom
- Other Companies Included In ChargeSheet
- Loop Telecom Pvt Ltd
- Loop Mobile India Ltd
- Essar Tele Holding
- Essar (Parent Group Of Essar Tele Holding)
With such massive names accused, is there any real hope that there is going to be any useful verdict? Will the money lost by the exchequer come back into the coffers of the government and be used for any developmental activities? Unlikely, is the word – and “impossible” is the feeling.