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2G scam: CBI raids residences of Raja, 4 officials

New Delhi/Chennai: Turning the heat on former telecom minister A Raja in the multi-crore second generation (2G) spectrum scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today carried out searches at his residences in Delhi and Chennai besides carrying out raids at the premises of four telecom officials, including his personal secretary R K Chandolia, reports PTI.

A team of about 80 CBI sleuths began the operations in the wee hours in Delhi and Chennai at the residences of 47-year-old Raja and the other officials.

Mr Raja was forced to resign as minister on 14th November in the wake of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report that the rates at which 2G spectrum was allotted resulted in a possible loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs1.76 lakh crore.

Besides being accused of undervaluing 2G spectrum, Mr Raja has also been held responsible for circumventing the rules to favour companies that did not meet the eligibility criteria for getting spectrum licences.

AIADMK demanded that Mr Raja be arrested under the Prevention of Corruption Act. “It’s a belated action. But it is better late than never. The next logical step should be to arrest Mr Raja under the PCA and interrogate him,” AIADMK leader V Maitreyan said.

Coming out in support of Mr Raja, his party, DMK, said, “He is our party member. We will stand by him”. “Let CBI do its duty. Let them come out with their findings. We will see.” party spokesperson TKS Elangovan said.

Raids were also carried out at the residences of former telecom secretary Siddarth Behura, Chandolia, member Telecom Commission K Sridhar and deputy director general in the Department of Telecom A K Srivastava, CBI sources said.

Agency sources said Mr Raja was all set to be questioned by it. Mr Raja has been maintaining that he was ready for being quizzed by the CBI any time.

The CBI action comes close on the heels of the Supreme Court coming down heavily on the CBI on 22nd November for failing to question Mr Raja and the telecom secretary in connection with the scam, saying it was “beating around the bush”.

The residence of Mr Behura, who became telecom secretary on 1 January, 2008, was also searched. He was also asked questions about the licensing procedures.

Mr Behura told CBI that licenses were handed over on 10 January, 2008 and that the decision had already been taken, a statement he made to Public Accounts Committee of Parliament yesterday as well.

The questioning of Mr Raja comes within days after the CBI informing the Supreme Court that it had transcribed nearly 6,000 telephone calls involving corporate lobbyist Nira Radia, Raja and others during which a purported mention about the allocation of spectrum was also made.

Mr Chandolia, who was sent back to his parent department—Indian Economic Services—within days of new telecom minister Kapil Sibal taking charge, has been quizzed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the issue of the first-come-first-served basis for the allocation of spectrum in 2008 after the cut off date for receiving applications was advanced at short notice by a week from 1 October, 2007 to 25th September.

Several companies complained that they had been unable to fulfil the application requirements because of the very short notice and had alleged that the preponement was clearly aimed at favouring the chosen few who had been intimated beforehand.

Mr Chandolia was personal secretary to Mr Raja at the time of the controversial spectrum allocation in 2008. Mr Srivastava was heading the licensing division of the DoT when the licenses were issued.

The CBI had registered a case on 21st October, 2009 against unknown Department of Telecom officials and private persons and companies for allegedly causing loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the exchequer.

The CBI has earlier searched offices of Wireless Planning Cell (WPC), the department responsible for allocating spectrum, and the office of deputy director general (access services) of the telecom ministry to probe the allegations of connivance of officials with private companies in allocation of spectrum.

It had also conducted searches in eight cities housing headquarters of various telecom firms in connection with its probe into the alleged scam.

Mr Raja quit just before the Winter Session of Parliament began, but it was not enough for an opposition baying for the government's blood on the 2G scam.

Opposition parties have been demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the 2G scam which has led to virtual wash out of this session.

Today was the 19th consecutive working day when both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were disrupted on the JPC demand which the government has refused to accept.


After record Oct sales, auto growth in Nov falls to 17.81%

New Delhi: After four consecutive record-setting months, vehicle sales in the country slowed down in November, growing by 17.81% as against 45.93% growth registered in October on a year-on-year basis, reports PTI.

According to Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the total number of vehicles sold in the country stood at 12,21,981 units in November this year as against 10,37,232 units in the same month last year.

"The automobiles sales growth in November was slower than September and October, and the actual volume was also lower," SIAM senior director Sugato Sen told reporters.

"The main reason for this was that the build up to the festive season that gave additional volumes has tapered off," he said.

According to Mr Sen, the industry body expects even lower sales in December as compared to November.

Domestic passenger car sales jumped by 20.79% to 1,61,497 units in November, compared to 1,33,703 units in the same month last year.

As per the figures released by the SIAM today, motorcycle sales in the country during the month grew by 15.61% to 7,10,182 units from 6,14,274 units in the same month last year.

Total two-wheeler sales in November increased by 17.68% to 9,30,370 units from 7,90,613 units in November 2009.

Sugato Sen maintained that the fundamentals such as rate of interest, availability of liquidity and products were still favourable for a good growth.

"Demand will finally settle down to around 25% at the end of fiscal for the passenger vehicles," he said, adding the industry was hoping to end the fiscal year at an overall growth between 25% and 30%.

Sales of commercial vehicles jumped by 18.26% to 48,314 units from 40,855 units in the year-ago period, SIAM said.

Auto sales had broken record for the fourth consecutive month in October with total vehicles sold at 14,60,655 units, which was better than the mark set in September this year.

During November, the country's largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India posted domestic sales of 87,618 units, up 29.25% from 67,786 units same month last year, SIAM said.

Hyundai Motor India had sales of 31,501 units, up 11.86% from November last year while Tata Motors' sales dipped by 33.79% to 12,234 units.

In the motorcycles segment, market leader Hero Honda witnessed a growth of 6.95% at 3,82,138 units, as compared to the same month last year, SIAM said.

Rival Bajaj Auto gained at 1,93,174 units, up 18.67% from the corresponding month last year. TVS Motor Co had sales of 49,534 units, up 50.34% from the same month last year.

Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) saw its bike sales going up by 40% to 51,171 units as compared to same month last year.

According to the SIAM data, scooters segment grew by 30.72% to 1,65,614 units during November compared to 1,26,686 units in the same period last year. The growth was led by HMSI, with sales of 68,278 units. The company had sold 68,272 units in the same month last year.

TVS Motor's scooter sales were at 35,433 units, a rise of 46.19%, while that of Hero Honda were at 27,168 units, an increase of 70.97% from November last year.

The commercial vehicles segment carried forward the upward trend that began in July 2009, with sales in November going up by 18.17% to 48,314 units from 40,885 units in the year-ago period, according to the latest SIAM data.

Light commercial vehicle sales rose by 22.67% in November to 26,359 units from 21,486 units. Medium and heavy commercial vehicle sales surged by 13.35% to 21,955 units compared to 19,369 units in the same month last year.

Three-wheeler sales during November were up 3.58% to 40,420 units compared to 39,020 units, SIAM added.


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