Why did the media ignore ISRO’s S-band scam for so long after it was in the public domain, asks Achintya Mukherjee
Details of the 'ISRO scam', which the Opposition claims to have unearthed a few days ago, were sent by the Bombay Telephone Users' Association (BTUA) to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and LK Advani, then leader of the Opposition, and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), eight months ago, in June 2010 to be precise. But politicians raise the issue-as they are doing now on the ISRO spectrum case-only to score political brownie points when it is convenient to them. Consequently, the loot of the natural resources of the country, which belong to all its citizens, continues unabated.
I am aware that the papers about the scandal were received (although for some strange reason, Speed Post acknowledgement due notices never come back from the political luminaries in Delhi), because I did hear from my sources in Delhi that the matter had reached the prime minister. But we heard of no action. Neither Mr Advani, nor his party did anything in the matter then. It was not raised in Parliament, nor was the information 'leaked' to the Delhi media, as has become the practice, so that an investigation could begin.
The principal issues in matters related to spectrum were raised in a consultation paper of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on spectrum allocation, put up on the TRAI website on 16 October 2009. In its response on 22 December 2009, BTUA had focused on the questions of (1) taking an inventory of the spectrum in use and not in use, (2) the return of spectrum received in excess or that which was affected by re-farming (example, defence, police, railways, etc), and (3) logical re-farming on the principles of best and efficient use per application, thus freeing the unused spectrum which would be released for commercial allocation.
BTUA criticised the authorities for raising these questions again when the very same questions had already been raised by TRAI in the consultation paper of May 2004 on spectrum-related issues. BTUA said that "it should have been the task of the DoT and its subsidiary agencies by now to have transparently studied this subject and indeed presented to the country a possible roadmap…it is the DoT (Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing) that should have given the answers for availability and suggestions for re-farming. In fact, without the data on this availability, decisions will only reflect the skewed process of recommendations and piecemeal approach to critical issues of progress."
Had such an inventory been taken, it would have become clear which organisation (private or public) was using which bandwidth and all questions of the allocation of 72Mhz to Dewas would have come out in the open. The citizens of India remain in the dark till today if there are other bandwidths generously doled out to other organisations. It is not to say that infinite spectrum is available, but the whole process appears to be manipulated to create an artificial scarcity, when the management of spectrum can be more efficient and transparent.
Incidentally, BTUA's response was not even put up on the TRAI website. The Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) has repeatedly pointed out to TRAI and DoT (and I have done so myself) the need to have effective involvement of consumers who are the biggest stakeholders in the telecom space. Without this, all decisions are skewed in favour of service providers and the industry because it is they who have the lucre-not the ordinary consumer.
BTUA made the point that whereas the government may have raised huge resources through auctioning of spectrum to cover a part of the budgetary deficit created by profligacy, private enrichment from nexus and corruption, leakages and sheer incompetence in all areas of governance, in the final analysis, all of this would be recovered from the common citizens through the cost of services provided and taxes thereon.
All of these questions were also posed to the users of spectrum who would also be affected by this poor management. BTUA's note was sent to several members of the press and to a large group of activists and citizens on BTUA's email list. The issues went unpublished in the media because it would have gone against the interests of the service providers.
I wrote then: "Democracy can only work if there is a critical mass of citizens who are committed to asking the right questions and demanding accountability of the executive (Government of India)... Your involvement is vital for adding to that critical mass. So please think about it and tell us what you feel."
The Association wanted to carry the voice of the people to the policy-makers. It still does, in the hope that some of it will pierce their deaf ears in Delhi.
(Achintya Mukherjee is the honorary joint secretary of the Bombay Telephone Users' Association-BTUA)
As part of the changes, Grasim Industries will replace Suzlon Energy in the S&P CNX Nifty, according to India Index Services & Products, a joint venture of NSE and Crisil. All changes will be effective from 25th March 2011
Mumbai: The National Stock Exchange (NSE) on Thursday announced changes in various indices including, Grasim Industries' replacement with Suzlon Energy in the Nifty index from 25th March, according to a release on the NSE website.
"From S&P CNX Nifty, Suzlon Energy would be excluded while Grasim Industries would get included in the same," according to a statement issued by India Index Services & Products, a joint venture of NSE and Crisil.
The changes are part of the exchange's periodic review. All the changes will be effective from 25 March 2011.
IndusInd Bank, Titan Industries and Zee Entertainment Enterprises will be included in CNX Nifty Junior Index as well as CNX 100 Index.
However, Corporation Bank, Grasim Industries, Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals (MRPL) will not be a part of CNX Nifty Junior Index. Further, Corporation Bank, MRPL and Suzlon Energy will not be inducted in CNX 100 Index.
Besides, Asian Paints, Crompton Greaves, HMT, Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers and Shriram Transport Finance will be replaced by ABB, Oil India, Opto Circuits, Power Finance Corporation and Suzlon Energy in the CNX Midcap Index.
BigRock is in the business of getting your business going on the internet. The ads do the job of simply and cheerfully telling consumers that BigRock can make it work for them
The BigRock guys are on to a sound business idea. And being the first off the block, they ought to reap in rewards. Their business is to get your business going on the internet, that too at dirt cheap rates. Only Rs99 for a website, though the qualifier 'Starts at Rs99' portends much larger payouts.
Basically, BigRock provides business solutions which involve creating websites for wannabe entrepreneurs. With a personalised touch. There are four commercials on air, and the route used is humour. And as you can imagine, they feature entrepreneurs who deal in off-beat businesses. And the ads are about how they use their websites to prosper and grow.
The funniest one features a loan recovery agent, as he shoots out hot tips on how he recovers dues from defaulters. This includes public shaming, eunuchs and fake policemen. There's another one that features a housewife who's opened up a school for training maids. The execution of the 'coaching' sessions is pretty hilarious. The third one involves acting classes and the fourth is about a South Indian businessman who's started a nut manufacturing unit… the last two are not really funny, though they try very hard to be.
I am okay with the ads. While they would have been a lot funnier if they had featured totally absurd, incredible businesses (a maid training institute and a recovery agent are real businesses), they do the job of simply and cheerfully telling mass consumers that BigRock can make it work for them. The message of simplicity is delivered well, and that's important. 'Arre yaar, yeh toh mein bhi kar sakta hoon!' is the desired response from the ads, and that should happen.
But what's most exciting is the business idea itself. A personalised biz website at throwaway rates is a proposal that hasn't come too soon (wonder why no one thought about it so far). With net connectivity in India growing at a fantastic pace, this could be a super future dhandha. And being the first mover, BigRock is clearly going to benefit.
I have a business idea too. Wonder if BigRock will help me put out a website. As a journalist, I offer to pass on sensitive political information to lobbyists. I offer to help 'convenient' ministers find the right cabinet berths. I offer to plug corporate clients in my media writings. And I offer to help clients get favourable judgments in sticky court cases. The website will surely rock! Rock big!