CBI registers preliminary inquiry into aspects of telecom policy since 2001

New Delhi: Acting on a Supreme Court direction, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today registered a preliminary inquiry (PE) to look into possible criminal aspects in the telecom policy since 2001, reports PTI.

The PE was registered against "unknown persons" with an aim to ascertain as to whether the "first-come-first-serve basis" provision passed by the then Cabinet led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was followed or not, official sources said here.

The CBI was likely to go into the minutes of the meetings held by successive telecom ministers, which included late Pramod Mahajan, Arun Shourie and Dayanidhi Maran.

According to the sources, nearly 50 licences were given out on the first-come-first-serve basis and Bharti, Vodafone and Idea were among the beneficiaries of the policy.

The sources said that documents of the companies who have been awarded the contract would also be examined.

The Supreme Court had on 16th December directed the agency to widen its investigation to cover the grant of licences by both the NDA and the UPA regimes between 2001 and 2007 and submit a report by 10th February this year.

The apex court had made it clear that the emphasis of the investigation would be to determine the loss of money to the public exchequer and said a progress report on the probe has to be filed by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a sealed cover.

Holding that prima facie "serious irregularities" have been found in the issue of 122 licences, the court delivered a seven-point direction to the CBI and ED saying it was satisfied that allegations need a thorough and impartial investigation.

Mr Shourie, who held the telecom portfolio between January 2003 and May 2004 in the NDA regime, had said he was not sure what made the apex court widen the scope of probe from 2001.


Tuesday Market Report: Watch 20,400 in Sensex for support and another push upwards

The market opened in the green, tracking the Asian markets that were mostly higher. The Sensex and the Nifty touched their intra-day highs in early trade but soon slipped below the neutral line as investors resorted to profit booking after the recent rally.

As indicated in yesterday's market closing report, the market fell today (62.33 points). The Sensex opened 56.33 points above yesterday's closing, hitting a high of 20,651.21, which was lower compared to the high of Monday, despite an overnight rally of almost 100 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, on improving economic data. Buying in select stocks lifted the key benchmarks into the green in noon trade, but volatility soon pushed them lower again. The market ended its four-day winning streak, ending about a quarter of a per cent lower.

The Sensex declined 0.30% to end at 20,498.72. The bellwether index touched an intra-day high of 20,651.21 and a low of 20,449.01. The Nifty shed 11.25 points (0.18%) at 6,146.35 after touching the day's high-low of 6,181.05 and 6,124.40.

In line with the market performance today, the breadth was tilted towards declining stocks. The Sensex had 18 losing stocks against 12 advancing stocks. The Nifty had 28 in the declining list while 22 stocks ended higher. Among the broader markets, the BSE Mid-cap index fell 0.26%, while the BSE Small-cap index slipped 0.04%.

The main Sensex gainers were Hindustan Unilever (2.54%), Reliance Industries (up 2.12%), ITC (up 1.78%), Reliance Infrastructure (up 1.70%) and Cipla (up 1.64%). At the bottom of the list, ICICI Bank (down 3.45%), Bajaj Auto (down 3.12%), State Bank of India (down 3.09%), Reliance Communications (down 2.50%) and HDFC Bank (down 1.97%) were the top losers.

In the sectoral space, BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 1.70%), BSE Oil & Gas (up 1.29%) and BSE Healthcare (up 0.87%) were the noteworthy gainers. The sectoral losers were led by BSE Bankex (down 2.48%), BSE Realty (down 1.12%) and BSE Consumer Durables (down 0.59%).

With economic recovery in the rich countries still fragile, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to India dipped for the second consecutive month, falling by about 7% to $1.6 billion in November 2010, from $1.72 billion in the same period last year. During the first eight months of 2010-11, India received FDI amounting to $14.02 billion, a decline of 27.4% over the corresponding period in the previous year.

According to a recent World Bank study, FDI flows into developing countries, including India, are expected to recover over the next couple of years.

Asian markets, with the exception of Taiwan Weighted, closed in the green. Japanese stocks rose to more than a seven-month high, aided by strong economic data from the US. The Nikkei 225 rose 1.7% to close at 10,398, its highest level since May 2010.  Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng advanced 1%, gaining 4.6% in its five-day winning streak.

Among other indices, the Shanghai Composite surged 1.59%, the Jakarta Composite advanced 0.87%, the KLSE Composite was up 1.20%, the Straits Times gained 0.45% and the Seoul Composite was up 0.73%. Bucking the trend, the Taiwan Weighted declined 0.31% today.

Back home, with the deadline approaching for BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) to offer a complete solution for monitoring of its contents by 31st January, the company has offered lawful interception in its security architecture through cloud computing from Indian operators.

RIM infrastructure is ready to receive and process through the cloud computing-based system, lawfully intercepted BlackBerry Messenger data from Indian service providers, the Canada-based firm said in a letter to the government.

The Sensex will try to find support at 20,400 and will try to make a rally effort if the support holds. The current rally, which began on 9 December 2010, has been fuelled by metal, consumer durables, information technology stocks. The year began with an opening gap of plus 112.52 points on Monday, 3 January 2011. However the market is not able to sustain the rally. Institutional inflows are also not strong. Inflows by foreign institutional investors were lowest yesterday (Rs340.98 crore) in the past four days. On the other hand, domestic institutional investors were net sellers of Rs124.01 crore in the equities segment.


Why is UID number being made compulsory through the backdoor?

While UIDAI and its chairman had said that the biometrics-based UID number would not be mandatory for Indian residents, many financial institutions and service providers are planning to turn it into the final word for identification

The biometrics-based unique identification number (UIDN) programme was launched with an open declaration that it would not be mandatory. However, the union government (the chief financier for the project) and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) are busy creating backdoor compulsions for UIDN through financial institutions and service providers, to ensure that people enrol or be left out of the system.

Only yesterday, labour secretary PC Chaturvedi told media persons that once the UIDN project is fully launched, the number would also help track provident fund (PF) accounts of individuals. Even the railways, as if not to miss the train, is planning to provide targeted concession to low-income group people through the UID number. According to reports, the railways wants to use the UID number to identify people living below the poverty line (BPL) and sell cheaper tickets to them. Although at present there is no provision for financial status, it could soon find a place in the UIDAI database, if one is to go by what the railways in planning.

Two months ago, CB Bhave, chief of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), had said that the market regulator was working on a new concept of operations based on the UID number. Although, for SEBI this is not the first time that it has tried to enforce an identification for investors. The market regulator discontinued its much-touted 'market participant identification number' (MAPIN) scheme in June-July 2005, after a six-member committee that was appointed to re-examine the use, structure and feasibility of the MAPIN database, recommended an end to biometric identification for investors. (Read 'Now, SEBI jumps on the UID bandwagon')

The question is, if UIDN is not mandatory why are banks, the regulators, the labour ministry and even the railways seeking to incorporate it under the garb of providing facilities or services, unless they want to use it as proof of identification. The list of UIDAI's associates, or partners for UIDN (also known as Aadhaar number), does not end here. There are many fat-profit organisations, which are collaborating with Aadhaar. This is not illegal, however, the question is why would a fat-profit organisation want to join this controversial project and spend public money?

As mentioned, the UIDAI database may include information related to financial status of an individual and thus would provide a golden opportunity for these fat-profit organisations to undertake targeted marketing. This aspect may have turned the Aadhaar project into a magnetron where UIDAI would be the magnet and these fat-profit organisations the electric power to generate extremely high frequency (targeted marketing) and short bursts of very high power (you get a UIDN or else…).

Addressing the Nielsen company's "Consumer 360" event in New Delhi not so long ago, Nandan Nilekani, chairman of UIDAI, said, "The (unique identification) number will create a much more open marketplace, where hundreds of millions of people who were shut out of services will now be able to access them."

Using UID, or allowing its database to be used by companies for marketing would turn the UIDAI into a business against its mandate, activists say. In addition, if at all the UIDN project is so good, why are leaders (political and business), bureaucrats and Page3 celebrities being kept out of it? Why not use their services to popularise the spread of UIDN, instead of launching it in some remote village in Maharashtra?
Our mails to the UIDAI chairman and other officials were unanswered.

Read more:
Now, SEBI jumps on the UID bandwagon
UID = more 'consumers', admits Nilekani
Right to privacy and biometrics of the UID
National UID: An Orwellian Odyssey
UIDAI's not-so-'clean' partners and their tainted executives
Fat profit institutions continue to board UID bandwagon


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