All spectrum decisions since 2003-08 were wrong: Telecom panel

Quoting the report, telecom minister Kapil Sibal said the committee found that original spectrum allocation was "bad" and procedures were not followed both during the NDA government till 2004 and the UPA government up to 2008

New Delhi: All decisions on spectrum allocation since 2003 by successive governments, including the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), were procedurally wrong, concluded the one-man committee, which probed into the procedural lapses following the telecom scam, reports PTI.

Unveiling the report of the Shivraj V Patil committee, telecom minister Kapil Sibal said here today that the findings on procedural lapses are being sent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is looking into the criminal culpability in the scam.

Addressing a press conference a day after the arrest of former telecom minister A Raja, Mr Sibal said his predecessor had said that he was "not deviating from the previous policies (the National Democratic Alliance government) but the problem was that the previous policies were wrong."

Quoting the report, Mr Sibal said the committee found that original spectrum allocation was "bad" and procedures were not followed both during the NDA government till 2004 and the UPA government up to 2008.

It also said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) did not follow the advice of the law ministry or the views of the finance ministry over pricing of spectrum.

The committee has also recommended reforms in allocation of spectrum and penalty on hoarding of the scarce natural resource.

The UPA government is battling, among others, a telecom scam with presumptive losses of over Rs1.76 lakh crore.

The former telecom minister has been arrested by CBI, which is investigating the case under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

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PM approves formation of 12-member GoM on coal

The move comes in the backdrop of ever-widening demand-supply gap in coal, which is likely to touch 142 million tonnes (MT) next fiscal and classification of 203 coal blocks by environment ministry as 'no-go' zones

New Delhi: Prime minister Manmohan Singh has approved formation of a ministerial panel, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, to sort out environmental issues hurting coal production, reports PTI.

This comes in the backdrop of ever-widening demand-supply gap in coal, which is likely to touch 142 million tonnes (MT) next fiscal and classification of 203 coal blocks by environment ministry as 'no-go' zones.

"Prime minister Manmohan Singh has his given consent for the formation of a 12-member Group of Ministers (GoM), mainly to consider issues impacting coal production and development projects in the country," a top coal ministry official told PTI.

The panel has been asked to finalise its recommendations within two months.

The GoM includes coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, environment minister Jairam Ramesh, home minister P Chidambaram, steel minister Beni Prasad Verma, mines minister Dinsha Patel, power minister Sushilkumar Shinde and commerce minister Anand Sharma among others, the official said.

Other members of the GoM are agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, law minister Veerappa Moily, transport minister CP Joshi and deputy chairman Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

"The GoM will consider all issues relating to reconciliation of environmental concerns emanating from various developmental activities including those related to infrastructure and mining and finalise its recommendations within two months," the official said quoting notification.

It will finalise the recommendations which will include issues like efficacy and legality of forest clearance norms, damage to environment due to projects and afforestation steps.

It will also suggest whether changes are required in the existing laws and provisions.

Concerned over coal shortages faced by various sectors including the power, the prime minister has already asked the ministry of environment and forests to revisit the policy of 'no-go' and 'go' areas.

Earlier, the Cabinet on 13th January had approved formation of a GoM to solve the vexed issue of mining in 'no go' areas as classified by the environment ministry.

The coal and environment ministries had locked horns over the issue after the latter last year classified 203 coal blocks under 'no go' area prohibiting mining there, impacting 660 MT coal production per annum.

The coal shortage faced by the country this fiscal is 82 MT and is likely to soar to 142 MT next fiscal.

The coal ministry had said various companies had already committed Rs35,000 crore for end-use projects in lieu of coal blocks allotment.

It had also argued that this would augment about 1,30,000MW potential power generation capacity per annum.

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Govt has no magic lamp to control inflation: FM

While the Indian economy is projected to grow by 8.8%-9% this fiscal, inflationary concerns are looming over the growth prospects

New Delhi: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today said steps have been taken to tame inflation but the government has no magic lamp to bring it down immediately, reports PTI.

"You cannot expect that there is any magic wand or like Aladdin's magic lamp that you rub it and your problem is solved," Mr Mukherjee told reporters here.

He said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has taken steps, including tightening of the monetary policy, to control inflation.

Driven by high prices of fruits, milk, meat and eggs, food inflation crossed 17% for the week ended 22nd January. Headline inflation shot up to 8.43% in December from 7.48% in the previous month.

While the Indian economy is projected to grow by 8.8%-9% this fiscal, inflationary concerns are looming over the growth prospects.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh, too, said today that inflation posed a serious threat to the growth momentum affecting the poor and vulnerable sections and favoured waiving mandi, octroi and local taxes, which impede the smooth movement of essential commodities.

In its third quarterly monetary policy review on 25th January, the RBI had increased both short term lending (repo) and borrowing (reverse repo) rates by 25 basis points to mop up excess liquidity from the system.

Besides, the government also took steps like banning exports of onion and abolished duty on its imports. On an annual basis, onion prices rose by over 130% in the third week of January, although recently they have moderated.

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