WHEN former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao opened up the economy, he could not have dreamed that his successors, Congress Party leaders, coalition partners, and gluttonous foreign collaborators will not only plunder the wealth of the nation but make a travesty of the governance system. gfiles’ cover story reveals alleged dubious business transactions between Aircel, Maxis, Airtel and R-Com on spectrum sale and purchase. These deals amount to daylight robbery of taxpayers’ money. The Society for Consumers’ and Investors’ Protection (SCIP) raised this issue by filing a writ petition in the Delhi High Court, highlighting the role of Malaysia-based absconders Ananda Krishnan and Ralph Marshall, who are defying the summons/warrants issued by the courts of India. Ananda Krishnan’s story is like that of the famous film Godfather where Marlon Brando could not be touched by the system. The SCIP petition raises many important issues: How different ministries and government agencies are allowing an open business-to-business transfer from a company whose chairman is charged with criminal activities. The way Airtel and R-Com are dealing with Aircel-Maxis is tantamount to sucking blood from the body and leaving the skeleton to be dealt with by the government.
The sordid saga of Aircel-Maxis raises many questions. Why is Dayanidhi Maran still scot free? Who was the then Minister of Finance who allowed the State Bank of India to sanction a loan of Rs 21,000 crore on leased spectrum, a scarce national natural resource. Spectrum is akin to land; if you buy it today and sell it after 10 years, the price multiplies. The sale of spectrum also happens like land deals, where transactions are on a 40:60 basis—40 per cent paid by cheque and 60 per cent in black. Aircel’s spectrum worth more than Rs 50,000 crore is available at throw-away prices as Ananda Krishnan is a man in a hurry to retrieve his wealth in cash. Krishnan is 78 years old and his family is not reportedly competent enough to hold and run the empire he allegedly built on forgery and deceit. With the emergence of two buyers, Airtel and R-Com, and the way spectrum is being allowed to be transferred, it appears that a powerful minister of the BJP government is supporting the deals. So, only the players have changed, the game is still on. It is a game of grabbing natural resources even if it means dealing with criminals and fugitives. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dictum of transparency and corruption-free governance is being followed, then the government should act. First, it should confiscate Aircel’s assets, including its spectrum which is on lease from the government. Second, the sale of spectrum should be barred with retrospective effect. Third, the government should not allow any business-to-business deal with reported criminals and their companies. Fourth, the SBI should be directed to speed up the recovery of bad debts, the same way as the bank is striving to do in the case of Vijay Mallya.
The governance system has to take action. The country’s natural resources are god’s gift. Nobody should be allowed to plunder and accumulate these resources. If this is allowed to continue, the day is not far when India will be on the road to becoming a banana republic.