Not only are a variety of corporate interests putting pressure on every little detail regarding the 2G auction process, but even Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is lobbying for it openly, reports Sheela Bhatt.
The government is lagging behind in the procedures to conduct the auction of controversial 2G spectrum as ordered by the Supreme Court in its February, 2012 judgment. The original deadline of June was extended on request of the government to August 31, but, once again, the 2G auction is proving to be too hot to handle.
According to a senior minister, the government will petition before the court to again extend the deadline. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear the 2G case where the presidential reference on the mandatory auctioning of natural resources mentioned in the 2G judgment of the apex court will be argued.
But, the issue of extending the deadline of 2G auction will go to the judges who gave the order to auction the spectrum, says a legal officer dealing with the case.
The 2G spectrum, whose auction sent former Telecom Minister A Raja to jail, will be now be auctioned as per the deadline set by the court, but even transparent auctioning is proving difficult for this government.
Not only are a variety of corporate interests putting pressure on every little detail, but even Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, the strongest leader of Uttar Pradesh and the most crucial supporter of the UPA government from outside, is lobbying for it openly.
He is sending out one letter after another to the members of Empowered Group of Ministers and is pressing the issue of 2G spectrum. Yadav's letters are long and elaborate and clear case of lobbying to influence the final decision.
Initially, in early April, the government wanted some 400 days to set up the process of 2G auction. The process is likely to impact some 70 million mobile phone users across the country.
To auction such natural resources, global tenders are issued to invite auctioneers. The delay on part of the government is, also, due to the fact that auctioning of such natural resources is a painfully long process where even the bidder needs enough time. There are apprehensions among telecom companies about the auction.
While setting the deadline for fresh auction of the 2G spectrum to August 31 from the time limit of June, the Supreme Court had warned the government to stick to the deadline. But pulls and pressures within and outside the government has contributed to the delay.
A member of the EGoM told rediff.com that the government will have to request the court to extend the deadline because EGoM hasn't been able to meet after the exit of Pranab Mukherjee from the government, who was heading the EGoM.
The powerful group has to decide the 2G auction base price and how much incumbent operators should pay for existing spectrum. The telecommunication ministry has formed an inter-ministerial group to handle the auction and their suggestions will be responded by the EGoM headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram.
Already the strategic base price of the 2G spectrum fixed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India at Rs 3,622 crore for 1MHz has been strongly opposed by mobile operators.
The government has to hasten up the processes of auction of 2G because the guys who got the 2G licenses in the scam-tainted procedure executed during the tenure of Raja has been given the deadline of September 7 by the court.
Their licenses will be cancelled as per the court order if the government doesn't pull up the socks. Some telecom operators fear that the mess of 2G auction can end up in some 7 million phone connections going dead.