Decision on cancellation of licences in a month’s time: DoT Secretary

All 85 licence holders have replied to show-cause notices over ineligibility or for missing roll-out obligations

New Delhi: The telecom ministry said today it will decide in a month's time on the cancellation of licences given by former telecom minister A Raja to firms that were allegedly ineligible, in 2008.

"We have received replies from all 85 licence holders who were issued show-cause notices. We are legally examining them and should be able to take a decision on it in a month's time," telecom secretary R Chandrasekhar told journalists. He categorically denied that any licence was cancelled so far, reports PTI.

The telecom ministry had issued notices to firms on two counts-ineligibility for licences and missing roll-out obligations within the stipulated timeframe. The DoT gave the operators 60 days to file their responses to the show-cause notice for cancellation of licences. "In certain cases, 60 days are over, while in some, there is till some time," officials said.

Mr Raja faces charges of issuing 122 licences in 2008 without auctioning the scarce resource spectrum, which caused a presumptive loss of over Rs1.76 lakh crore. The matter is being examined by various investigating agencies as well as a parliamentary panel.

Notices have been issued to Swan Telecom (now Etisalat DB), Datacom (now Videocon Telecom), S Tel, Uninor and others, either for ineligibility or missing roll-out obligations.

In its reply to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) rejected the allegation of any notional loss due to the issuance of 122 new licences in 2008 and said that the premium placed on the scarce resource from the perspective of a producer need not necessarily translate into a loss when seen from the view point of the consumer and public welfare.

"The concept of notional loss when spectrum is given at a price discovered a few years earlier, has to be balanced with the gains accruing to the consumers and the general improvement in public welfare in the form of faster economic growth," the DoT said. The PAC had sent 40 questions to the DoT relating to the 2G spectrum scam.

Suggesting that the notional loss reported by the audit report should be seen in the light of the benefit that it has given to consumers and general public welfare in the form of quick economic growth, the DoT said the objectives of the Telecom Policy since 1999 were to increase tele-density and affordability for consumers, while maintaining a level playing field for incumbents and new players, as well as revenue accrual for the government.


Over 60 killed in Myanmar earthquake

Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China during the earthquake yesterday, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8

Yangon: More than 60 people were killed and dozens injured after a strong earthquake struck Myanmar near its border with Thailand cutting off some affected areas, reports PTI.

Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres (500 miles) from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China during the earthquake yesterday, which the US Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8.

A Myanmar official said dozens of people were killed in areas close to the epicentre and more than 240 buildings had collapsed.

"The death toll has increased to more than 60 now from those areas including Tarlay, Mine Lin and Tachileik townships," the official said.

"About 90 people were injured from those areas. Officials are still trying to reach some more affected areas. There are some places we cannot reach yet," he added.

Across the border, Thai authorities said a 52-year-old woman was killed in Mae Sai district after a wall in her house collapsed.

Terrified residents across the region fled their homes, tall buildings swayed and hospitals and schools were evacuated during the tremors.

In Yangon Chris Herink, Myanmar country director for the charity World Vision, said there did not appear to be "catastrophic infrastructure damage" in the affected areas of Kengtung and Tachileik, although buildings were cracked and water supplies disrupted in some areas.

"Of real concern though are the more rural areas.

There will be more, I am afraid to say, unhappy information coming throughout the day," he said.

"It is a hilly area near the border between Thailand and Laos, the so-called Golden Triangle. There is a lot of commerce that goes on in the area."

World Vision has around 7,000 children sponsored by overseas donors in the affected areas.


Govt introduces Bill to give statutory power to PFRDA

The pension regulatory authority was set up in 2003, but legislation laying down its structure and responsibilities has not been instituted till now for various reasons

New Delhi: Taking forward financial sector reforms, the government on Thursday introduced the long-pending Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill in the Lok Sabha to give statutory status to the interim pension regulator and promote old age income security.

The Bill, which was introduced by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, provides for establishing a statutory regulatory body to be called the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) that will undertake promotional, developmental and regulatory functions with respect to pension funds, reports PTI.

The principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party supported the proposal, even as the Left parties pressed for a division at the introduction stage. The Bill was introduced after a division of votes, as 115 members backed the proposed legislation, 43 opposed it and one member abstained from voting. As many as 159 members were present in the 543 member House.

According to the statement of objects and reasons, foreign investment policy for pension sector intermediaries, including pension funds and the central record-keeping agency, would be determined and notified outside the proposed legislation under the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

The Bill also contains provisions for empowering the PFRDA to regulate the National Pension System (NPS), as amended from time to time. Moreover, it authorises the PFRDA to levy fees for services rendered by it, towards meeting its expenditure. The pension fund regulator can also impose penalties for any violation of the provisions of the legislation, rules, regulations, etc, once the Bill is passed.

The Bill also provides for the establishment of the PFRDA consisting of a chairperson, three whole-time members and three part-time members.

"The New Pension System, as provided in the PFRDA Bill, 2005, would be renamed as the National Pension System," the Bill says.

The government had constituted an interim pension sector regulator in 2003. The PFRDA Bill was earlier introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2005, which was then referred to the Standing Committee.

The government proposed amendments in 2009 to give effect to certain recommendations of the Committee, but amendments could not be moved and the PFRDA Bill, 2005, could not be considered and passed, and the same lapsed due to the dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha.

Though the PFRDA does not have statutory powers at present, it is regulating the New Pension System. The government had launched the New Pension System for central government employees entering service from 1 January 2004. Later it was extended to all citizens from 1 May 2009.


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