Monthly Archives: October 2009

FBI foils terror bid to attack India and Denmark

FBI Logo

The FBI arrested David Coleman Headley, a Chicago resident earlier this month for plotting terror-attacks overseas, including India. He was arrested along with a Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin by the FBI’s joint terrorism task force. Headley, a U.S. citizen who resides primarily in Chicago, was arrested on Oct. 3, 2009, by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) at O’Hare International Airport before boarding a flight to Philadelphia, intending to travel on to Pakistan.

Reports also indicated that they planned to attack the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, which published some cartoons of the prophet, including one with a bomb as a turban, in 2005.

Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), blamed for the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack, was planning to use an American national to carry out another major attack in India, the FBI said Tuesday.

mumbai-attacks(1)

26/11 Attack on India

Indian sleuths would now join their FBI counterparts on Monday to ineterrogate David Coleman Headley, for his role and association in a attack plot on India, as fresh inputs indicated that he was planning to visit Pakistan this month. Indian investigators from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) are also expected to probe the terror-drug nexus as it has come to light that Headley was charged by a federal court in New York in 1997 with smuggling heroin to the US.

In 1997 he was still operating under his name Daood Saleem Gilani; under which name the case is still in the court records which also shows he was living in New York. Gilani was sentenced to a 15-month prison term in that case. He was travelling to Pakistan and bringing heroin back.

One of Headley’s cousins, Farid Gilani of Philadelphia, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he spoke to Headley over the phone about a month ago. “He was supposed to come (and) visit me, but he never came,” Farid Gilani was quoted as saying. “He said ‘I am going back home to Pakistan.”

A Department of Justice press release sourced from it website lists the details of arrest as well as charges on the two accused:

Headley, a U.S. citizen who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 and resides primarily in Chicago, was arrested on Oct. 3, 2009, by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) at O’Hare International Airport before boarding a flight to Philadelphia, intending to travel on to Pakistan. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to that overseas terrorism conspiracy.

Rana, a native of Pakistan and citizen of Canada who also primarily resides in Chicago, was arrested on Oct. 18, 2009, at his home by federal agents. Rana is the owner of several businesses, including First World Immigration Services, which has offices on Devon Avenue in Chicago, as well as in New York and Toronto. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorism conspiracy that involved Headley and at least three other specific individuals in Pakistan.

In a related development, a senior Pakistan diplomat has come under the FBI scanner for his links with the two accused arrested individuals. Aman Rashid, who is currently Pakistan’s consul general in Chicago, was trying to help Headley acquire a Pakistan visa, the FBI said in its chargesheet while suggesting that he may not have been aware of the true identity of Headley and the purpose of his visit to the country.

A revised FBI chargesheet said that Rashid and the two accused went to the same military high school in a town called Hasan Abdal, 40 km northwest of Rawalpindi in northern Punjab. FBI also found that Rashid, Headley and Rana were all Abdalians, as former students of the Cadet College Hasan Abdal school describe themselves. The FBI told the court that postings to a Yahoo group of graduates of the military school suggested that both Headley and Rana were members of the group.

The FBI said that Rana was in touch with Rashid for arranging Pakistan visa for Headley to facilitate his visit to NWFP where he was scheduled to meet LeT leaders. “On or about September 25, 2009, Rana spoke by telephone with the consul general at the Pakistani consulate in Chicago in an effort to obtain a five-year visa for Headley to travel to Pakistan. It is clear from the email traffic unrelated to terrorist plotting that the consul general knows Rana and Headley personally as all three attended the same high school,” the FBI stated in its chargesheet filed in a Chicago court.

The transcripts of phone conversations and emails in FBI’s possession indicate that LeT was planning to use Headley for attack on an Indian actor named “Rahul”. Headley is reported to have divulged to the FBI his intention to travel to Pakistan in early October where he was supposed to meet with an unidentified LeT individual and another man named (Ilyas) Kashmiri, an LeT terrorist who was earlier with Pakistan’s Special Services Group.

While the Indian Home Minister, P Chidambaram clarified that it is not Congress leaders “Rahul” Gandhi it may be a code name for some other leader or individual.

“It is not the Rahul that you think it is. It could be a pseudonym, it could be a code name but please be assured that it is not the Rahul that you think is,” he (Chidamabaram) said.

The DoJ release indicated that there was no “imminent threat” in the Chicago area.

There was no imminent danger in the Chicago area, officials said, adding that the charges are unrelated to recent terror plot arrests in Boston, New York, Colorado, Texas and central Illinois.

At the same time, the October 18 raids on the goat farm house of Rana have become the talk of the Kinsman town on the outskirts of Chicago, when nearly 100 sleuths with helicopters and latest equipment landed up. Incidentally, there are three nuclear power plants near Kinsman. A Kinsman resident told a local daily that the raid was upsetting as no one was aware of what was going on until the FBI announcement made public the arrest of the two early this week.

The US state department has meanwhile issued a short term “travel alert” advising Americans “to monitor local news reports and consider the level of security present when visiting public places, including religious sites, or choosing hotels, restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues.’’ The “travel alert’’ is different from the “travel warning,’’ as describes short-term conditions. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal in the region are on a “travel warning”, alongwith other nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Philippines among others.

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Naxalite terrorists hold India to ransom

 

Rajdhani Express

The concerns raised by various reports earlier seemed to have not made any impact on the authorities in India who still talk about going soft on the Maoist terrorists (Naxalites) in India. The “Red-Corridor” as it is (in)famously known, stretches over multiple states in India. These terrorists who call themselves the voice of the poor and oppressed have been on an overdrive in the past few months killing hundreds of civilians and security personnel. In the latest incident they hijacked a passenger train thereby holding the whole nation to ransom. The train in question is arguably the most coveted train in India, the Rajdhani Express.

The train – one of India’s fastest, swankiest passenger trains – had been hijacked by at least 300 ax- and sword-wielding Maoist rebels Tuesday morning as it sped through West Bengal on its way from the eastern state of Orissa toward the Indian capital. After a five-hour drama, during which the driver was taken hostage and passengers were forced off the train and into the jungle, the rebels surrendered. No one was hurt.

Booker Prize Winner- Arundhati Roy has been a vocal supporter of the Naxals

Booker Awardee-Arundhati Roy has been vocal about the Naxal "cause"

While people are regularly killed and looted by these criminals, the most shocking element of the whole episode is the clout and sympathy they find in political and so-called “intellectual” groups. While the spate of violence and crime goes unabated after a lot of dilly-dally the central government recently gave a go ahead to carry out operations against the Naxalites. Though the level of commitment from the various political parties still seems varied and casts doubts on the intentions.

In the recent Rajdhani express incident the police FIR lodged tells a story in itself.

In what is being seen as a move to shield the Maoists, there is no mention of the Maoists or even the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA)in the FIR that was lodged against the hijackers of the Rajdhani Express by the Railway authorities, in the Rajdhani hostage case.

Questions are now being raised over why Mamata Banerjee’s railways ministry has not mentioned the PCPA or the Maoists’ in the FIR.

This new information comes to light despite the Maoists and the PCPA claiming responsibility for the hijack of the Rajdhani.

While the political parties exchange allegations over support to naxalities, security of the hapless passengers remains at stake. Everyday millions of Indians commute on the rail network.

Although some known faces of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, including Santosh Patra, were among the crowd, a railway official was quoted by sources saying “Who will identify them? We do not know any of them?”

Though later on Thursday evening the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), in what seemed to be a “damage-control” exercise filed a FIR naming naxals as the perperators.

“When the police forces were heading towards the train on October 27 they were fired upon by the People’s Committee Against Political Atrocities(PCPA) and Maoists. An FIR has been lodged against them for attacking the police and attempting to prevent them from doing their lawful duty,” a senior police officer told PTI.

Naxalite Training

In an earlier revelation many national newspapers carried the news of the amount of fund and source of funds that these Naxalities have in their kitty. The sources peg the value of the “business” at INR 1,500- crores which is raised mainly through mafia style extortions especially from the corporates operating mines and related industries in the naxal belt.

Naxalism, which started off as a people’s movement, has now become a nearly Rs 1500 crore organised extortion business in the form of ‘levy’, police and central security officials said.

CPI (Maoist) and especially its splinter groups, which extort the money hardly pump it back for running the movement but instead use it to maintain luxurious lifestyles for their masters, the officials said.

"Red-Corridor"

The report also exposed the way these militants are raising funds from the hapless industrialist in these areas. This has in many cases also led industries to shut down operations after some of the employees were abducted or killed. The area is widely under developed and poor people get lured to join the “movement” with hope of getting “social justice” and as reports indicate “wages” for being part of the gang.

If a conservative estimate is taken of the income generated from ‘levy’ in the seven most Naxal-infested states — Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra — security agencies feel the collection from these areas, which are commonly referred to as ‘red corridor‘, amount to nearly Rs 1,500 crore.

The Naxals have even come out with a card, recovered by forces, which clearly shows the exact amount of ‘levy‘ to be paid by contractors, petrol pump owners and land owners.

It usually ranges from 10 per cent of the project cost for those making unpaved roads to five per cent for small bridges and others.

Such militants are also encouraging production of narcotics to fund their groups. While they lead a lavish life from the funds they are forcing common people to death traps.

The chiefs lead a luxurious life with all modern facilities. Though, they forcibly recruit children in their cadre, their own kids study in good public schools,” officials said.

The Naxals also encourage local villagers to undertake opium cultivation, just like insurgents in Northeast states.

Of the total 1.07 lakh kg of ganja or marijuana seized in the country in 2007, heavy quantity of it was from Nagaland (15,489 kg), Madhya Pradesh (14,815 kg), Maharashtra (12,551 kg), Chhattisgarh (7,470 kg) and Andhra Pradesh (7,059 kg).

The naxalities have also been targeting banks to fund their luxuries.

After the recent theft of Rs 5 crore from a bank in Jharkhand, the state police are all set to work out a strategy to prevent Naxals from targeting banks in several parts of the state.

Sources in the police said the theft in Jharkhand was a part of Communist Party of India (Maoists)’s decision to target bank money. “In November 2007, the central committee of the CPI(M) had asked its members to ensure that substantial percentage of tax was collected from banks. The top leadership of the party is of the view that levy should not come only from old sources like Gram Pradhans and contractors in the Naxal-affected areas,” a source said. Naxals who operate at the ground level have been told to target banks in Uttar Pradesh too, he added.

In a report published by the BBC the level of sophistication and organization of these terrorists is clearly visible. The details were revealed when BBC landed up with a copy of the “preliminary interrogation report” of Narla Ravi Sharma, a senior Naxalite leader who was arrested a fortnight ago by the security forces.

He is quoted as saying that the annual expenditure incurred by the Maoists in the Bihar-Jharkhand region is around $200,000.

The Maoist leader said that all their members were paid monthly “wages”, though he refused to divulge how much.

Mr Sharma was arrested in mid-October along with his wife, Anuradha, from the forests near Hazaribagh town in Jharkhand.

His revelations about corporate funding of Maoists has prompted police and intelligence officials to suggest that the massive military effort planned against the rebels will not yield the desired results unless their “finance line” is choked.

This is not the first time Indian firms doing business in rebel-dominated areas have been accused of funding the rebels.

In the 1980s and 1990s big tea and oil companies were accused of regularly giving funds to the separatist United Liberation Front of Assam and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland in the north-east.

Corporates generally pay up to avoid disruption or abductions – and business leaders say that the government should not punish them unless they can provide security to companies operating in Maoist-affected areas.

Other related NowPublic Stories

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India: Deadly fire after oil containers at depot burst

 

Fire at Oil Depot in India

A deadly fire has broken out in Sanganer, Jaipur, Rajasthan (India) due to explosion at a oil depot at 7:30PM local time. Five people have been reported killed and about 150 injured by now. The depot stores gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel for several state-owned oil companies. The fire has spread and damaged “industrial units” as far as three kilometers (1.87 miles) away.

Two villages in the vicinity have been evacuated and people in one km radius have been asked to stay out. Efforts are still on to douse the fire but is not yet under control.

The Indian Oil Corporation has said that the fire broke out due to leakage in petrol pipeline. The IOC has meanwhile sent teams to Jaipur from Delhi and Mumbai.

Army has been called in to help with the rescue work. 270 army personnel have been deployed for the work. Some reports indicated five dead while 25 people being trapped in the complex which had about 80-90 lakh liters of fuel.

Twelve tankers containing fuel have been affected by the fire, according to the Indian news service, citing Ishwar Lal, a chief fire officer. Lal said it would be “devastating” if the fire reaches LPG, liquefied petroleum gas, tanks.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who presided an emergency cabinet meeting late this evening in the wake of the fire, said Rs one lakh would be given to the seriously injured and Rs 50,000 to those who suffered “normal” burn injuries.

He said all private hospitals have been asked to treat the injured and the government foot the bills of their treatment.

Till now 5 people are reported dead while over 200 injured. Meanwhile authorities are following a policy of letting the fuel burn on its own as the Union Petroleum Minister almost expressed inability to fight such fire owing to lack of experience of agencies  who have no such precedence of extreme fire.

 The scale of the blaze and the intensity of the flames forced Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora to admit that it was virtually impossible to control the inferno until the fuel in the tanks ran out.

“It’s difficult to control this fire,” Deora said after reaching Jaipur with a team of six experts. “It will be wrong to say we don’t have the infrastructure. But it’s difficult to control a fire of such scale. India has never seen a blaze like this.

Source: indiatoday.intoday.in

Center has meanwhile announced a compensation package in addition to the one announced by the state government. The Centre announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the dead. Compensation for those injured would be offered in three categories – Rs 5 lakh for the seriously injured, Rs 2 lakh for the injured and Rs 1 lakh for the slightly injured.

While the firefighters still try to contain the damage in the area; all the industrial establishments in a 3-km radius have been destroyed. A fresh explosion was also heard at around 9AM local time after which a few neighboring houses were seen on fire. Area in a 10km radius has been evacuated as a precautionary measure. 40-50houses and 12 factories have been charred in the incident.

Meanwhile a high-level committee of the Petroleum Ministry will investigate the incident.

A high-level committee of the Petroleum Ministry will probe the causes behind the fire at the IOC fuel facility on the outskirts of the city and suggest future safety measures at oil and gas depots.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said this after talks with Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, who arrived here to take stock of the situation arising out of the blaze raging for over 16 hours.

Source: ptinews.com

Meanwhile the the losses till now from the incident to the state owned IOC have been estimated at INR 200-crore. (Approx. USD 40 Mn).

This pulled down the company’s script down by 7.5% at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) during Friday’s trade.

Update 3:

Update at 31st October (01:22AM IST)

Although officials have confirmed five deaths, six others present at the site at the time of the fire are feared dead. Five bodies have been recovered but the IOC employees are still untraced. Many more are critical in the city’s hospitals.

It’s not known whether these employees are dead but they were at the depot during the time of the fire. Those declared dead are people who had been admitted to various hospitals since Thursday,” Rajasthan home secretary Pradip Sen said.

During the day, petroleum minister Murli Deora visited the site but could not throw much light on what exactly triggered the killer blaze and how it spun out of control. He was resigned to the fact that there was no way but to let the one lakh kilolitres of fuel in IOC’s 11 tankers at the oil depot in Sitapura Industrial Area to just burn out.

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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India, China and Australia on economic recovery fast-track: IMF

 

International Monetary Fund

The Washington based International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday said that the three economies of India, China and Australia were recovering at a especially rapid pace, which suggests that there would be growing pressures for regulatory authorities in these markets to tighten monetary policy well ahead of others in the region.

 

In a few special cases…the recovery is advancing so rapidly that output gaps are already starting to close and pressures are already emerging,” the International Monetary Fund said in a regional economic outlook report, released in Seoul.

The IMF while calling the three economies special cases, added that a tightening of the monetary policy for other countries in the region seemed unnecessary in the near future.

IMF also advised the central banks in the region against raising interest rates for now.

It also advised Asian central banks not to raise interest rates  as it could potentially attract “carry trade-type” capital inflows and aggravate asset price pressures while staying away from pointing out economies facing such pressure.

 

For all these reasons, it would seem preferable, at least initially, to address incipient asset price pressures through targeted prudential measures rather than the blunt instrument of monetary policy,” it said.

The Australian central bank has already raised the interest rates, becoming the first major economy to do so after the crisis started while the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is also contemplating measures like tightening credit to commercial property sector.

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(B)RIC agrees on issues of terror, drug and regional cooperation

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RIC Foreign Ministers (From L): Russia's Sergei Lavrov, India's S.M. Krishna and China's Yang Jiechi

The Foreign Ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) met at Bangalore, India to discuss issues of regional and international importance on Tuesday, October 27. This was the ninth trilateral discussion between the three nations.

 

Discussions were dominated by issues like drug trafficking, terrorism and cooperation on several issues. A mention for diplomatic settlement of the Iran nuclear issue and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was also made at the meet. The meeting was also important in backdrop of recently concluded meeting between Indian and Chinese Prime minister’s meeting at Thailand on the sidelines of the ASEAN meet as well as discussions with Russia on October 21.

In a joint declaration, minister for external affairs S M Krishna and his Chinese and Russian counterparts, Yang Jie Chie and Sergei Lavrov, demanded that all the nations concerned implement relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly, UN Security Council, international conventions and protocols against terrorism. The RIC meeting urged the member-states to urgently conclude and adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. “Member-states should also contribute to implementation of the UN global counter-terrorism strategy,” the ministers said in a joint declaration.

The recent spate of allegations by both India and China on each other on border issues had dominated news recently. While both the nations stayed away from such discussion during the meet; the Indian Foreign Minister, SM Krishna, on Wednesday acknowledged that the resolution of boundary dispute with China would take time, and need “a lot of patience“. He also acknowledged occasional Chinese incursions but added that there was no cause for alarm. He also discharged any allegations of China building a dam on the Brahmaputra river which can damage the ecology in the Brahmaputra basis in India.

Meanwhile the state government of Arunachal Pradesh is going ahead with its preparation to receive the Dalai Lama as a state guest on a 1-week tour starting November 8 this year. China has always objected to Indian support to the exiled spiritual Tibetan leader. China had also objected to Indian PM’s visit to the state of Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims as part of its territory. Indian PM said that he has taken up the issue with Chinese PM, Wen Jaibao during his recent meet at Thailand.

The three nations also agreed that they should help Afghanistan to counter terrorism as it is of strategic importance to curb terrorism in the region. The meeting also identified energy security, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, IT and climate change as key sectors of common interest and called for synchronized approach.

The three foreign ministers decided to hold the next trilateral meeting of the series in China.

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Afghan President’s brother claimed to be on C.I.A payroll:NYTimes

 

Oriental Poppy

A report in New York Times can literally brew up storm in the U.S. political cup. While the U.S. forces keep losing life daily fighting Taliban in Afghanistan and the U.S. authorities fight Mexican drug cartels to wipe out drug from streets the report questions the whole vision and action:

NY Times Headline: Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.

This report published in the New York Times can fan the fire to debate around the US strategy in Afghanistan. While Afghan President Karzai is struggling to maintain his popularity and fight the image of being a US puppet which his detractors including Taliban has always tried to portray, this revealation may cause some embarrassment to both Karzai and the US. The US war strategy which is currently under review at the White House may also get questioned due to this nexus.

The involvement of the C.I.A also suggests that Uncle Sam is not doing everything in its power to lock down the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban. Some US Officials also feel that dependence on Karzai’s brother undermines the strategy to establish a strong central rule. Ahmed Wali Karzai meanwhile in an interview rubbished charges of running drug cartel or receiving payments from the C.I.A while accepting that he helps US agencies.

If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan.

He is reported to help C.I.A run an armed force called the Kandahar Strike Force (KSF) which is used to attack suspected infiltrators and militants. KSF is also alleged to have at least once, mounted an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government. He is also paid for  allowing the C.I.A. and American Special Operations troops to rent a large compound outside the city.

C.I.A has meanwhile declined any comments to the report “No intelligence organization worth the name would ever entertain these kind of allegations,” said Paul Gimigliano, the (C.I.A) spokesman.

An US official meanwhile was quoted as saying:

There’s no proof of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s involvement in drug trafficking, certainly nothing that would stand up in court,” said one American official familiar with the intelligence. “And you can’t ignore what the Afghan government has done for American counterterrorism efforts.

While the Obama administration has spoken many a times about rooting out the drug business from Afghanistan, which is the largest in world, the reports coming from Afghanistan don’t suggest so. It is said that the US administration has tried to impress upon President Karzai to move his brother out of South Afghanistan but till now has not been able to persuade him. He is also alleged to have created hundreds of fake polling booths and phony ballots for President Karzai during the elections.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money are flowing through the southern region, and nothing happens in southern Afghanistan without the regional leadership knowing about it,” a senior American military officer in Kabul said. Like most of the officials in this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the information.

If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” the American officer said of Mr. Karzai. “Our assumption is that he’s benefiting from the drug trade.”

Senior Afghan investigators claim that they know plenty about Karzai’s involvement in the drug business. A top former Afghan Interior Ministry official familiar with Afghan counternarcotics operations in an interview earlier this year, said that a major source of his influence over the drug trade was his control over key bridges across the Helmand River on the route between the opium growing regions of Helmand Province and Kandahar. He is said to charge a huge fee for drug laden trucks to cross these strategic bridges. The former official added that it is impossible for Afghan officials to investigate him. He said, “This government has become a factory for the production of Talibs because of corruption and injustice,”.

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Indian Telecom Minister at the wrong end of “Spectrum”

 

Manmohan SinghThe ruling National Democratic Alliance was in a party-mode after its win in the recently concluded state assembly election of three states when it a multi-million “scam” was revealed which has spilled beans and put the government on a back foot in front of opposition parties. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while conducting the investigation landed at the office of A. Raja, Cabinet Minister, Telecom & IT following a trail on the controversial 2G spectrum auction. In his defense Raja revoked names of top Cabinet ministers. The offices of his ministry were raided by the CBI in a bid to find missing links in the case which is estimated to be worth INR 60,000-crore though the CBI charge sheet values it at a mere 22,000-crore. This makes the scam the biggest scam in Indian history.

(Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha <the Upper House of Parliament>, Arun) Jaitley also says the CBI probe is too little and too late. ‘‘The FIR filed by the CBI admits to a loss of Rs 22,000 crore. However, simple calculations yield a loss exceeding Rs 60,000 crore making it the biggest scam in India’s history.’’

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

To push through a policy of allowing more competition, the ministry under Raja’s jurisdiction in 2008 allowed new players to take telecom licenses at 2001 prices, which were way below the rates that could be fetched if market rates were determined in a normal bidding process.

Earlier there was a belief that there should not be too many operators and so there was a cartel. I wanted competition and got the new operators in. It seems that the cartel has created the storm. There are allegations from them. Let the investigations happen,” Raja said.

Source: profit.ndtv.com

He also said that even the empowered Group of Ministers (GoM) saw no reason to change the license fee. The GoM was headed by the current Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee which was constituted after the then Law Minister, H R Bhardwaj (in November 2007) had cautioned of a “mega scam” in making. The suggestion to set up a GoM had infuriated Raja who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister questioning the Law Minister’s suggestion.

The Telecom Minister’s letter is a classic example of arrogance. He wrote, “The Ministry of Law and Justice, instead of examining the legal tenability of these alternative procedures, suggested referring the matter to EGoM. Since generally new major policy decisions of a department or inter-departmental issues are referred to the GoM, and needless to say that the present issues relate to procedures, the suggestion of the Law Ministry is totally out of context.” (The emphasis is as in the letter.)

Source: dailypioneer.com

The PM seemed unimpressed about the letter and wrote back “I would request you to give urgent consideration to the issues being raised with a view to ensuring fairness and transparency and let me know of the position before you take any further action in this regard”. PM in his response also objected to the proposal to go ahead with the first-come-first-served model and cheap pricing. He instructed the Minister to adopt “correct pricing of spectrum and revision of entry fee”. Raja was also asked to respond to the objections raised by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) over the first-come-first-served basis and the 2001 pricing for sale in 2008. This was followed up with a flurry of letter exchanges and then Raja went into a no-response mode for some time. After about 50 days he sent a letter to the PM on December 26, 2007 which stated that he had received the go ahead from Pranab Mukherjee (then External Affairs Minister) and the then Solicitor General Goolam Vahanvati.

It is here that the Telecom Minister got enlightened. “In these circumstances, the discussions with External Affairs Minister and Solicitor General of India have further enlightened me to take a pre-emptive and pro-active decision on these issues as per the guidelines and rules framed thereunder to avoid any further confusion and delay,” a grateful Raja stated.

Source: dailypioneer.com

The opposition has stepped up its attack on the minister in particular and the government in general. Some view this as an opportunity for the Indian National Congress, which leads the coalition government, to remove Raja who belongs to the DMK party. Raja has been in the line of fire from different quarters over the projects he sanctioned as Environment minister previously.

In Jaitley’s opinion, it is best that the PM allow the CBI to continue its investigation without hindrance by airing political messages. ‘‘It is not appropriate to interfere with the investigations of an independent agency in a matter where the entire nation believes that Raja and some of his officials are involved in massive largesse to select private companies.’’

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

As different groups squabble over the action; the CBI is believed to have recovered incriminating documents that may put the minister in a tight spot. Meanwhile even as the proceedings in the case are underway; acting on a strong worded letter from the the Finance Minister, DoT today issued timelines for 3G spectrum auction. There have been issues of contention between the various ministries and armed forces on the 3G spectrum allocation as these bandwidths are currently used by the armed forces and may not be available anytime soon.

 

The defence ministry has said that it will not be able to vacate the spectrum before June 2010. This had prompted some DoT officials to suggest that the auction should be delayed. As a result, DoT delayed the issue of the information memorandum which was supposed to be released earlier on September 29.

But Mukherjee, in his letter of October 15, made it clear that there was no scope for any delay in the auction, especially as the government wants the revenues from the auction to accrue in the current financial year. The government, in the Union Budget, had earmarked over Rs 35,000 crore from the auction of 3G auction, which is crucial if it wants to contain its fiscal deficit.

 

 

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