Centre favoured telcos by deferring recovery of dues: Cong

Chandigarh, Feb 15 (PTI) A day after the Supreme Court rapped telecom companies for failing to pay their dues to the Department of Telecommunications despite orders, the Congress lashed out at the Centre, accusing it of 'favouring' private players by deferring the recovery of dues.

Congress leader and spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said mobile phone users were also being fleeced to the tune of Rs 35,561 crore annually with a 40 per cent rise in tariffs.

Posing a question to the Union government, he asked, 'What is the quid pro quo for Mr PM (Narendra Modi) for your decision, dated January 3, 2020, to defer the recovery of Rs 1.02 lakh crore from three telecom companies?'.

The Congress leader also accused the Centre of deferring the recovery of Rs 42,000 crore (spectrum auction instalment) for 2020-21 and 2021-22 from the telecom companies in a Union Cabinet decision on November 29 last year.

'Is it a coincidence or experiment? Will the BJP government reveal the reason behind this 'assem kripa' (immense kindness),' Surjewala asked.

Describing the displeasure of the apex court in the matter as the 'stinging strictures' against the Union government, the Congress leader said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has 'lost the moral, ethical and constitutional right to continue in his office even for a single day'.

The Supreme Court on Friday threatened contempt proceedings against top executives of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other telecom firms for failing to comply with its directive to pay an estimated Rs 1.47 lakh crore in past dues, and asked whether there was no law left in the country.           The Congress leader said the Supreme Court in October 2019 had directed Vodafone-Idea, Airtel Bharti, Tata Teleservices (now owned by Airtel) and Reliance Jio to pay Rs 1.02 lakh crore to the Centre towards adjusted gross revenue (AGR) under the 1999 telecom policy.

The Solicitor General of India had indicated the figure of Rs 1.02 lakh crore before the court at that time, though the media had put this figure at Rs 1.47 lakh crore, he said.

Surjewala said within a month of the SC order, the telecom companies raised mobile tariffs by 40 per cent, thus putting an additional financial burden on 112 crore prepaid subscribers.

'Is the increase of 40 per cent in cell phone tariffs and data usage charges a ploy or methodology or a chronology as you say (PM) to recover Rs 1.02 lakh crore of the AGR of telecom companies that they are required to pay under an SC order,' Surjewala asked, accusing the Centre 'crony capitalism'.

Surjewala said with the 40 per cent rise in tariffs, the annual financial burden on 112 crore mobile users will be to the tune of Rs 35,561 crore.

'If we multiply the figure of Rs 35,561 crore with remaining four and half years of the Modi government, it will be Rs 1.60 lakh crore,' he claimed.           Surjewala said, 'Remember, the 2G scam was a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore over which Modi demanded the resignation of the then PM.' 'Mr PM here is evidence and you are going to fleece 112 crore people of Rs 1.60 lakh crore. Should you now not morally step down,' he asked. PTI CHS VSD RDK RDK