Raja defends government's spectrum policy
New Delhi: Defending the policy of giving licenses without auctioning spectrum, Communications and IT Minister A. Raja Monday said his decision to issue telecom licenses at nominal rates has led to higher tele-density and fetched huge revenue for the government. In his nearly two-hour reply to a debate on the functioning of his ministry in the Rajya Sabha, Raja said: "We have so far collected 68,000 crore. In 2007-08 alone the government got 23,000 crore." During the debate, the opposition alleged a "huge monumental scam" in the spectrum allocation and said Raja was "skirting core issue" that whether the 1,651 crore license fee was a fair value. Raja held the telecom regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), responsible for the low entry fee and said it was the regulator which in in 2001 recommended that the entry fee should be nominal. Subsequently, this was raised by 10 percent based on increased subscriber base, but did not hike it from 1,651 crore. "If TRAI tomorrow comes with a new entry fee, we will have no problem. It can suo motu look into the hike in the entry fee," Raja said. Regarding the last application date being advanced to Sep 25, 2007, from Oct 1, 2007, he said it was to have "reasonable restrictions on the huge flow of applications" that the date was rolled back. Unsatisfied with the minister's answers, the opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties, staged a walk-out from the house.