MUMBAI (Reuters) - The government should take a stand in the telecom spectrum scam, Ratan Tata, one of India’s most influential businessmen, told a television channel, referring to the scandal that has paralysed parliament.
“I wish the government would take a stand, bring order...have an investigation, book people who are guilty of something,” Tata, who leads salt to software conglomerate Tata Group and counts telecom operator Tata Teleservices as one its units, said in excerpts of an interview to be aired on Saturday on broadcaster NDTV.
A government agency has sent notices to nine telecoms firms including Tata Teleservices, India’s fourth-biggest mobile operator, over investigations related to an alleged multi-billion dollar telecoms licence scam, media reports said.
The scam, which revolves around the sale of telecom licenses at low prices, has led to the resignation of the telecoms minister, and, according to an official watchdog audit, has possibly lost the state $39 billion in revenue.
“There has been a smokescreen behind what is really the so-called scam, which really is out-of-turn allocation of spectrum, hoarding of spectrum by important players for free, and things of this nature,” Tata said.
In its report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said rules were flouted when the licences were given in 2007 and 2008, and led to many ineligible firms receiving them.
Last week, the Supreme Court criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his apparent delay in probing the widening scandal, potentially one of the biggest to hit India.
The government has resisted additional probes, saying a CBI investigation is under way. Critics say the government fears it will be dragged into a long-running investigation ahead of state elections.
The scandal has now engulfed parliament as opposition parties have kept it shut since November 9 over demands for a full parliamentary investigation into the disputes over sale of telecoms licences and radio airwaves worth billions of dollars.
The shutdown weakened the government’s ability to move key economic measures and delayed legislation in areas such as banking and mining, although the government is not at risk of collapsing.
Reporting by Tanmaya Nanda and Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Jui Chakravorty