ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Corruption That Vanished

The collapse of the 2G case exposes the cynical use of corruption as a political tool.

 

That all the accused in the “2G scam” have been acquitted by the trial court for want of evidence came as a surprise. Even more surprising was the fact that this case had receded from public memory in such a short span of time. Less than 10 years ago, the allocation of mobile telecom spectrum for second generation (2G) services, done using the “first come, first served” system, was the subject of a raging controversy. A total of 122 licences had been given out to various telecom companies for rolling out mobile internet and voice services all across the country. This was meant to be a major push to extend telecom reach and teledensity at a time when India was on the cusp of its telecom “revolution.” It ended up, however, becoming the symbol of corruption under the Congress and its United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government with the fantastical figure of a₹1.73 lakh crore “notional loss” and could well be seen as the beginning of their end.

The allegations are well known. Spectrum was sold to favourite companies by the UPA government at prices far lower than market rates after allegedly taking large bribes from them. This, it was believed, led to an under-collection of revenues by the government, ranging from around a “low” of about₹20,000 crore calculated by some newspapers and analysts to as much as₹1.73 lakh crore proposed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), Vinod Rai. It was assumed that this led to super-profits for the telecom companies. A Raja of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was the prime accused as the then telecom minister, but others from his party as well as the Congress, including the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, were all seen to be complicit. While arbitrariness and favouritism in decision-making, as well as corruption and loss to the public exchequer were alleged with prima facie evidence, what really made it so important was the exaggerated amount involved. It became a symbol of the gargantuan nature of corruption in the UPA government and a marker of how much money was being diverted from public goods like infrastructure and poverty reduction.

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Updated On : 9th Jan, 2018

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