What was the 2G spectrum allocation scam? Who were the people involved? How much money was involved? Who is Andimuthu Raja (A. Raja)? Why did the Supreme Court cancel 122 spectrum licenses granted by A. Raja in 2008, who was the Minister of Communications & IT at the time? Why does the name “Reliance” keep popping up in the 2G scam trial?
A slew of high-profile corruption allegations in the final years of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure set in motion the slow and steady demise of the Indian National Congress. Among them was the 2G scam, which the CBI was tasked with prosecuting even as the Congress party fell apart by the wheels.
It may be confusing to fully understand exactly what it was that telecom Minister A. Raja did wrong, and how a series of deeds and transactions may be construed as misdeeds and fixed auctions, or “insider trading”. The Special CBI Court in New Delhi that acquitted all the 17 accused – including A Raja and DMK Rajya Sabha Member Kanimozhi – on Friday, December 21, also made strong remarks about the case presented by the prosecution. Judge OP Saini observed:
“I may add that many facts recorded in the charge sheet are factually incorrect, like Finance Secretary strongly recommending revision of entry fee, deletion of a clause of draft LOI by Sh. A. Raja, Recommendations of TRAI for revision of entry fee etc.
The end result of the above discussion is that, I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any of the accused, made in its well choreographed charge sheet.”
Judge Saini also mentioned:
“In the beginning, the prosecution started with the case with great enthusiasm and ardour. However, as the case progressed, it became highly cautious and guarded in its attitude making it difficult to find out as to what the prosecution wanted to prove,” he said.
“However, by the end, the quality of prosecution totally deteriorated and it became directionless and diffident.”
Because “telecom spectrum” is not a tangible object (it exists in the air, like radio waves, or wifi), it becomes difficult to explain the nature of the scam or the act of corruption. To fully understand the prosecution’s case, it becomes necessary to break the “act of corruption” or misdeeds down to simpler components, and draw more relatable parallels. Quora user Palkesh Asawa from Indore draws an apt analogy comparing 2G spectra (or spectrums) to bread, explaining it as such:
“Raja is a shopkeeper who sells bread. He is the only bread seller in the entire city, and everybody who wants to make sandwiches has to buy bread from him. That sounds like a fine job.
This bread is used around the city to make sandwiches. Now, consumers love sandwiches. They are ready to pay a lot of money to buy sandwiches. This must be good news for Raja, right? Because he is sitting on the entire supply of bread in the town, and many people want to buy that bread.
If you were Raja, what would you do? Goddamn it! Sell it at a high price! Conduct an auction! Whoever pays the most gets the bread. It makes sense, right? Because you want to make money from it.
Alas, Raja’s ancestors had written an old rule-book, in which they had written an archaic rule saying two things –
1. Whoever comes first will get the bread; and,
2. The price of bread will be fixed.
Now, where is the fun in that! Raja is clearly disappointed with this. And then he got a brilliant idea. He called his friend, and this happened:
Raja: Dude, you know what?
Raja: I am selling bread, and whoever comes first will get all the bread. And the price of that bread is nominal. Do you want it?
Friend: Dude, I can’t be at your shop at 4 AM before others, so thanks, but I’ll pass! I can’t really win this stupid first-come-first-serve rule.
Raja: You’ve always been an idiot. I am not telling you to wake up and come before others and wait for the window to open. Don’t you get it? I am going to tell you in advance when the window will open. You just need to pretend as if you don’t know me, and behave as if you were the first one to come. And then, I’ll give you the bread. Sounds doable, right?
Friend: Okay, even if we assume that we can do this, what in the world will I do with bread! I am not a sandwich maker, why do I need bread?
Raja: Are you insane, don’t you see how valuable bread is? Because freaking everyone wants sandwiches. The man who has the bread, has the money. Don’t you see it, idiot?
Friend: Okay, but even if I get the bread, I don’t even know how to make sandwiches! I mean, it is stupid to apply for bread because people don’t want bread, they want sandwiches (of which, I know nothing!)
Raja: Dude, you can always sell the bread to the actual sandwich makers. Look, you are getting this bread from me at a nominal cost of ₹5, whereas there are people ready to buy it at prices as high as ₹50! So, just get it from me and sell it. Who told you to make sandwiches? Just sell the bread and pocket the money. How is this not obvious to you?
Friend: Oh, that is amazing dude. Where do I sign up?”
This is what was alleged in the 2G scam.”
Asawa explains the essence of the alleged fraud by Kanimozhi and A. Raja in a way more easily understood by the untrained, untechnical layman, albeit grossly oversimplifying the extent of the “theft” and wholly avoiding the consequences of such large-scale mismanagement.
Ankur Borwankar is an author, lawyer, motivational speaker & entrepreneur. He is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Indus Dictum.
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