New Delhi. Further on the monsoon session of Parliament, the congress has put a staggering charge of Rs 45,000 crore telecomm scam on the Modi Government, on which the government is “surreptitiously taking steps” to safeguard the interest of six leading telecom companies.
However, the government on Thursday thrashed the charges saying the CAG report on revenue understatement by six telecom firms is related to UPA period from 2006-07 to 2009-10. It also said that it has begun the process of recovering money from the companies.
The telecom firms aforesaid by the Congress are Vodafone, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Idea, Aircel and Tata.
"Latest is a staggering 'Telecom Scam' of approximately Rs 45,000 crore plus that is being buried under the carpet by 'Modi Sarkar'", party's chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala asserted at a joint press conference with party spokespersons Shaktisinh Gohil and R P N Singh.
He alleged that the government is "surreptitiously taking steps to protect the interests of six leading telecom companies by helping them avoid the payment of charges rightfully owed to the government."
He claimed that this is direct case of loss to the public exchequer confirmed by the CAG “with the only aim of helping friendly ‘crony capitalists’.”
When asked about the involvement of Ravi Shankar Prasad , who was shifted to the Law & Justice Ministry from Telecom this week, Surjewala claimed that whatever has happened could not be take place without the “direct or indirect concurrence” of the Prime Minister Modi and it would be “improper” to blame a single minister.
The Congress leaders said that CAG initiated an audit of the six telecoms firms from the year 2006-07 to 2009-10 at the instructions of the Congress-led UPA government. It looked over the underreporting of revenue and non-uniform method of accounting adopted by the various telecom companies and subsequent lack of obligation to pay outstanding license fee and Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC).
In its report presented this year, the CAG found an alleged understatement/ underreporting of income of Rs.46,045.75 crore by the six companies in the four years.
"Resultantly, the CAG found that there was a sum of Rs 12,488.93 crore, which remains un-recovered by the government. This does not include penalty, if any, and other relevant taxes," Surjewala said.
He said that though there has been a considerable increase in business, consumer base and income, but even if loss of exchequer is calculated on the same blueprint for the years 2010-11 to 2015-16, this figure would be Rs.45,000 crore plus.
"Instead of taking immediate stand on these shocking and surprising revelations reflecting serious loss to public exchequer, Modi government has opted for an alternative re-evaluation of these figures through Telecom Ministry by the Chartered Accountants who are empanelled with them," Surjewala said.
Surjewala claimed, firstly this is a clear methodology of Modi government to "inordinately delay" the process of recovery for years together, if not, writing it off entirely. Secondly, it reflects the apparent "mal-intent" of the government to "dilute or diminish" the figures put forth by the CAG.
Raising a number of questions, he wondered whether it is a "grotesque breach of public trust" by BJP-led government, which, in the past, had made a notional loss pegged by CAG in 2G spectrum allocation case, a major issue of corruption.
Asking about the government strategy to recover actual losses, he wondered whether government is acting as a "willful collaborator" with the selected corporate entities in artfully dodging recovery of massive sums of money.
Is it a new way to minimize fiscal deficit"? He said sarcastically.
"Why is Modi government maintaining a conspicuous silence on the matter becoming virtually comatose despite the mammoth size of financial sums involved?” he said.
Rubbishing the charges, the Department of Telecom said, "CAG Report on understatement of revenue by six Telecom Service Providers by Rs 46,000 crore was received in February 2016. The report pertains to four years i.e. 2006-07 to 2009-2010 which is before the tenure of this government."
The report, it said, points out a shortfall of Rs 5,000 crore of License Fee and Spectrum Usage Charge and Rs 7,000 crore of interest.
"The Department received the key documents scrutinized by the CAG in mid-June 2016. These are being vigorously examined and the process of issue of demands for the four financial years for six operators in 22 license service areas in consonance with license agreement is currently ongoing," the statement added.
DoT said the demands raised from this exercise will be recovered with due interest and penalty as applicable under license agreements.
"There is therefore no loss of revenue to Government," the statement said.
Stating that Revenue Assurance is the top priority of DoT, it said, "The government is determined to recover every rupee of underpaid amount with interest and penalty from every defaulting company in the minimum possible time."