New Delhi, Oct 18 (IANS) India's former top bureaucrat has claimed that he had recommended an entry fee of Rs.35,000 crore ($6.55 billion) for 2G spectrum, which is over 21 times more than the Rs.1,658 crore ($310 million) for which the allocations were originally made.
Former cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, in his deposition before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probing the 2G spectrum, said he favoured higher amount in a communication sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in late 2007 so as to enhance government revenue.
Chandrasekhar was cabinet secretary during the United Progressive Alliance tenure from June 2007 to July 2011 over a four-year period.
The former bureaucrat told the JPC meeting, chaired by Congress MP P.C. Chacko here, that he had sent the letter after Manmohan Singh asked him to do so in November 2007.
Chacko, who briefed the media on the discussions at the JPC meet, said Chandrasekhar informed the panel that the prime minister wanted him to work out the financial implications of the recommendations of the telecom regulatory authority on spectrum allocation on a 'first come-first served' basis.
In the November 2007 letter, the bureaucrat told the panel, he had suggested that if entry fee or revenue sharing or spectrum fee were changed, that would bring greater revenue, and had recommended hiking it to Rs.35,000 crore.
He also said that the department of telecommunication was the ministry responsible for the spectrum entry price and the decision was that department's to take on the spectrum allocation policy of 2003 approved by the then NDA cabinet.
Despite this recommendation, Chandrasekhar did not consider that the allocations based on Rs.1,658 crore as entry fee amounted to any loss to the state exchequer, as in his view a loss could not be calculated.
On the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that arrived at a presumptive loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore ($35 billion), Chandrasekhar felt that "the government's policies were not about revenue generation alone, but also had to consider the greater common good".
With regard to a March 2011 note from the finance ministry, which mentioned that the then finance minister P. Chidambaram could have insisted on auctioning of spectrum and prevented the revenue loss, Chandrasekhar pointed out that the document was prepared for internal use to prepare all the concerned ministries for uniformity of view and chronological sequence of the spectrum allocation process.
On the controversial March 25, 2011, note which suggested that Chidambaram could have insisted on auction, Chandrasekhar told the JPC that the note was entirely an internal document of the finance ministry.
In a written submission, he also told the JPC that he had never asked for or saw the internal note of the finance ministry.
On then telecom secretary D.S. Mathur's contention of differences on spectrum allocation with then telecom minister A. Raja, Chandrasekhar informed the JPC that there was nothing on record or in the departmental orders that the ministry sent to the cabinet secretary to suggest there existed any differences between the two.
On the contrary, the communications from the ministry to the cabinet secretariat had indicated a common stand on the spectrum among all in the telecom ministry.
"The former cabinet secretary informed that he was never apprised of differences between Mathur and the minister. He said that the differences found no mention in any communication to the cabinet secretariat," Chacko said.