Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hope he is Ratan Tata, not rotten Tata!

I think many will agree with me that the current war on corruption is not fizzled out in the wake of the war of words between the corporates.

On the day that Radia tapes came into public notice, Ratan tata had lost half the war. As if to insist on his 'morality', he talked about his refusal to pay bribes for getting entry into the aviation sector. But that talk did not come without a missile having some utility for the politicians. He sent a hidden salvo in that talk directed at the NDA for that incident. And now after the independent MP of the Rajya Sabha Mr Rajeev Chanderashekar has spelt his accusations on the Tatas, Mr Ratan tata has openly revealed on which side of the political boundary he is standing now.

It is only but natural to expect a person in his place to cling to the Congress support for, after all he is the main gainer from the 2G Spectrum. But should a Rattan Tata take such a stance is a question coming in our minds. However a reading of his letter makes me think that Mr Kabil Sibal had rushed with undue haste to reveal his glee before the media friends of the UPA.

The letter does not say that things were amiss with the NDA's Telecom policy. But what he spoke on political affiliation is unnecessary in that context. It shows that he is trying drastically to divert the attention from the core issues. He behaved more like a Karunanidhi who would talk about sacred thread / Aryan dominance / dait subversion when faced with uncomfortable questions.

This is a testing time for Ratan Tata and it is hoped he does not come down to the level of the politicians. The exchange of letters between Rajeev Chandrashekar and Ratan Tata are reproduced below for us to take stock of what they say.

As for Rajeev, he was already known to the public as one who questioned the rationale of hiking the salary of the MPs. That can be read here.
Let us watch what these two persons are going to say in the coming days.
Whatever charges they may trade against each other, it must be borne in mind that the monumental corruption involving A.Raja can not be whitewashed. Dayanidhi' Maran's complicity in the developments also can not be hidden if the events from 2001 are brought under scrutiny.


Rajeev Chandrasekhar's Open Letter to Ratan Tata

Open Letter to Mr. Ratan N. Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons Ltd.
Monday, December 06, 2010

Dear Mr. Tata,

It is with considerable concern and some confusion that I have watched
your recent Television Interviews and press statements following the
2G scam and the exposure of the infamous Nira Radia Tapes.

I, as countless other Indians, have held the house of Tatas in great
esteem and respect – have seen them as being different from so many
other Indian corporates that play by a different set of rules and
values.  I, along with many Indians, consider JRD Tata as one of the
true builders of modern India.

So, it is with considerable sadness and dismay that I am constrained
to write this open letter to you. I trust you will not consider this
as personal, since my letter has to do with issues of principle and
conduct that are disturbing.

In your recent press interactions, you have made the point that the 2G
scam needs to be investigated and have made several sub-points,
  1.   Out-of-turn allocation of spectrum;
  2.   Hoarding of spectrum by incumbent operators; and
  3.   Flip-flop of Policy

Let me wholeheartedly agree with you. Many in media and public life
including me, have been saying this for several years now, so your
belated realization of these critical issues is very welcome.

I sympathize with your concern about public-policy making in our
country sometimes resembling that of a Banana Republic. But the forces
behind this are helped considerably by the fact that people with power
and influence remain silent and passive spectators to this. So many
including I would have welcomed your intervention much earlier, as in
the case of the alleged bribing offer 15 years ago, of Rs 15 Crores
that you referred to only recently. You will agree that speaking out
against corruption is most effective when it is happening and not
decades or years later. Because then it becomes an intellectual post
mortem, and not active resistance.

Since I was previously a telecom entrepreneur, there will be a
temptation for those that advise you, to attribute agenda and
motivations to this letter of mine. But I assure you that there is
none. I write because I believe that there is a need to join you in
this debate and necessarily bring to your attention the contradictions
between your stand and the position of the Tata Telecom companies,
that you may be unaware of, given your senior position in your

1.   Out-of-Turn Allocation of Spectrum

According to the CAG Report, the potential loss to the Exchequer on
account of dual technology licenses at 3G rates is Rs. 37,154 crores.
By virtue of dual technology - according to the CAG – your company has
caused a loss to the Exchequer to the tune of approx. Rs. 19074.8

But it is not just this. It is a fact that the Tata Group is a
beneficiary of out-of-turn spectrum.  In fact, one of the biggest of
them all.

It is a fact admitted by the Government on affidavit that 575
applications were received for 2G spectrum by 01 October, 2007.  Using
an illegal and arbitrary cutoff date, Mr. Raja processed only 122
applications received till 25 September, 2007.  110 were rejected and
343 applications were put in abeyance.  Given the fact that there is
no 2G spectrum available, these applications received till 01 October,
2007 (within the date represented by the Government) have now been put
in the dustbin.  In fact, the TRAI had already recommended on 11 May
2010 that no more UASL license with bundled spectrum can be given.
This means that these 343 applications will never be processed and
will never see spectrum.

In the meantime, 19 days after these 575 applications were received,
the dual technology policy was announced through a press release by
Mr. Raja.  The Tatas put in their dual technology applications around
22 October.  So, in effect, their application went in three weeks
after the 575 2G applications were received.

Today, Tatas already have GSM spectrum allocated and GSM service
launched in most of the circles – But the 343 applications submitted
three weeks before the Tata Group have neither been processed nor have
any chance of ever being processed – so much for First Come, First

You will accept that this seems to be a case of arriving late, forming
a new queue, jumping the priority and accusing others of getting
priority on spectrum allocation and meets your point of out-of-turn
allocation of spectrum. I am sure the 373 applicants who were rejected
for no fault of theirs, will agree - while the Tata Group has sold its
equity for billions of dollars to NTT Docomo based on its out-of-turn
GSM allocation on dual technology policy.

In my humble opinion, evidence suggests that the Tatas have benefited
from out-of-turn spectrum allocation. The dispute between Tatas and
Reliance Comm inter se on the allocation sequence cannot dilute the
primary fact of bypassing other early applicants to this spectrum.

2.   Hoarding of spectrum by incumbent operators

This is an important point you have raised. I concur with you that
there is a need for Telcos, old or new, to pay market rates for
spectrum. I also completely agree that the subscriber linked criteria
allocation of spectrum is flawed and is encouraging fudging and false
subscriber numbers. But I bring to your attention, that this is
existing Government policy – flawed or unfortunate as it may be, and
the only solution to this is to replace this with a new policy.

If by hoarding, you mean having more spectrum than number of
subscribers that can be serviced – then please note that Tata holds
spectrum both for GSM and CDMA.  Based on the spectrum that Tata has,
its average efficiency is perhaps the lowest amongst the large
operators.  Equally, that the CDMA spectrum that Tata holds is 3-4
times more efficient than the GSM operators – by its own admission,
which I recall during the WLL scam. Moreover, Tata has received CDMA
and GSM spectrum at 2001 rates.  So even if the hoarding charge was to
apply, it would also apply to the Tatas for having maximum cumulative
efficiency (CDMA and GSM) to serve the least number of subscribers
amongst the incumbents.

Again, I fully support the need to price spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz with
incumbent operators at market rates.  But the charge of hoarding that
you make applies equally to Tata Tele – whether it is total spectrum
held, or subscribers served based on that spectrum, or price paid to
acquire such spectrum, vis-à-vis the cumulative efficiency of CDMA and

3.   Flip-flop of Policy

In your interview, you have pointed out that a lot of the current
dysfunctionality in Telecom has arisen from Policy changes and
flip-flops. You would recall that one of the most horrific distortions
of Policy was the infamous WLL scam in 2001– where Telecom companies
with Fixed service licenses managed to muscle their way into cellular
with active support of Policy makers of that time – and not to forget
that it was all done in the name of benefit to the common man!

You will further recall that in 2003, a convenient set of
recommendations by the TRAI and Government allowed this illegality to
be regularized through the UASL policy, opening the gates to
unprecedented and unique (and unheard of) First Come, First Served
form of licensing - bypassing tenders (a form of auction) that were
the norm for obtaining cellular licenses till then.

Your company was the beneficiary of this 'policy flip-flop' and you
chose to accept the benefits of this flip-flop at that time - despite
this blatant violation and distortion. I am personally aware because I
led the fight against it and remember being immensely disappointed at
the Tata Group's remarkably self-serving position. Further, in one of
the most mysterious and indefensible acts, Tata Group took on board as
a consultant, the very individual, who as the Chairman of TRAI was the
architect of this UASL and other shames.

So in summary and respectfully, your positions in the recent
interviews seem to be in stark contrast with the actual conduct,
performance and position of Tatas' Telecom companies in each of the
three points you have raised.

There are several other questions that deserve answers, including why
a group like Tata with its sterling character and reputation requires
outside lobbyists to lobby on their behalf! That, in itself, is enough
to shatter one's confidence!

I reiterate that this letter is not meant to tarnish or disrespect or
distract from the many achievements of the Tata Group including the
acquisition of International Brands like Land Rover, Jaguar and its
increasingly global footprint. But I believe, on behalf of many
erstwhile supporters of the Tata group, that it is my duty to seek and
spotlight the truth. The Tata Group has a responsibility, and indeed,
owes it to its many admirers in India to actually live up to its image
of ethical conduct, otherwise your statements and actions will seem to
be hypocrisy – something that's already available in plenty in our
public and corporate life.


Member of Parliament
New Delhi
06 December, 2010


Ratan Tata's reply to Rajeev's open letter.

 Dear Rajeev,

I am currently overseas and have just seen a copy of the open letter you have addressed to me with copies to the entire media community. This is of course in keeping with the current trend of attempted character assassination through widespread media publicity couched in pain and concern for upholding ethics and values. Your letter is based on untruths and distortion of facts and l feel compelled to place the real facts, as bluntly as possible before you. l hope this will also be broadly disseminated to the same audience as your letter. l am of course well aware that some media houses will choose not to publish or air my response in deference of their owners, who are the real gainers in the telecom sector, with whom you have unfortunately aligned to provide a massive diversion of attention away from the real culprits in the telecom space.

You will appreciate that the Governments stated telecom policy of 1999 set out the principles of a technology neutral environment. When cellular mobile telephony was introduced, the first set of operators, including yourself, chose GSM, the broadly used European technology at that time. The first set of cellular mobile operators received their licenses based on an auction process in circles for which some of them and their partners submitted very high bids. Later in July 1999, in a BJP-led NDA Government, in accordance with the recommendation of a Group of Ministers headed by Mr. Jaswant Singh, the fixed license fee regime was changed to a revenue share regime (which exists even today). lf a hypothetical amount was to be calculated, similar to one which has been done in the CAG report, at that point of time, the loss to the exchequer would be about Rs.50,000 crores and the exchequer would have been deprived of this amount. Realistically, however, the revenue share system would have recouped some amount over time and this important change most probably has been responsible for the greater growth of the industry as it enabled tariffs to be reduced.

CDMA technology (a newer and more spectrum efficient technology), was utilized by some operators for fixed wireless operations such as PCOS and for last mite wireless connectivity for 'fixed line phones. The first attempted deviation of stated policy was in January 2001 when the then telecom minister, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, in a NDA Government, sought to allow the fixed wireless application of CDMA - for limited mobility on the grounds that it would be available to the public at a lower price. The GSM operators led by you mounted a campaign lobbying against this on the grounds that it would be unfair to the incumbents who had made investments and who had enjoyed first mover advantage.

You will recall that you and Nusli Wadia approached me in the Chambers in Taj Mumbai in July 2002 to sign an appeal to the then Prime Minister, Mr. A. B. Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Advani and Finance Minister Mr. Jaswant Singh not to allow fixed mobile service providers to provide mobile services. I enclose a copy of your fax dated July 12, 2002, requesting me to sign and the draft letter which l was supposed to sign. In para 2 of this letter your objective amongst other things was to reach a 50 million subscriber base by 2006. To refresh your memory, l enclose a copy of the letter dated August 16, 2002, that l wrote to you expressing my inability to sign such a letter as it would block the introduction of CDMA technology and l believed that the telecom industry needed to be technology neutral but what l agreed with you was that any new operator should pay the same fee as the incumbents so that all operators were equalized and that no one was disadvantaged. As a result of a technology agnostic policy we achieved more than 100 million subscribers in 2006 and to date 700 million. l am also enclosing a copy of my letter to Mr. Vajpayee dated January 12, 2001, in which l advocated an open, transparent process giving all parties a chance to be heard - a stance that I have not changed till date. This had angered you and the other operators who were not interested in a level playing field and lobbied aggressively through COAI to ensure that a technologically agnostic environment would not come to pass. lt is obvious that an industry driven by technology cannot confine itself to a single technology only because that was the technology employed by a handful of operators who derived early mover advantage, enjoyed high ARPUS and in fact thwarted new - admittedly more efficient technology like CDMA. China, Korea and even the U.S. have built their large subscriber numbers on the utilization of both CDMA and GSM technologies. Growth could have been far greater had incumbent operators like yourself risen above their self-interest of protecting their investment and allowing the existence of all technologies on an equal footing.

However, in pursuance of the spirit of NTP 1999, the Government did indeed implement the technology neutral policy in November 2003. The minister involved was Mr. Arun Shourie in the same BJP-led NDA government under Mr. Vajpayee. This was implemented through the creation of the UASL regime which enabled existing license holders to migrate to UASL license providing freedom of choice of technology and where a pan-­India license could be obtained for a fee of about Rs. l,650 crores, the same fee paid by the successful fourth cellular mobile operator. Mr. Shourie needs to be commended in implementing this far sighted policy, which has enabled technology to be the driver of the industry, rather than technology protected growth.

I will now briefly touch on the points you raised regarding TTSL and the alleged advantage they gained. I have requested TTSL to address those issues in greater detail to you directly.

On the issue of various allegations you have made on the so called benefits gained by TTSL, so called out-of-turn allotment that you claim have been given by DoT, you have chosen to misrepresent the facts as they suit you to justify the claims you have made. The true position is that TTSL has not I repeat not been advantaged in any way by Mr. Raja or any earlier Minister. The company has strictly followed the applicable policy and has been severely disadvantaged, as you are well aware, by certain powerful politically connected operators who have willfully subverted policy under various telecom ministers which has subsequently been regularized to their advantage. The same operators continue to subvert policy: have even paid fees for spectrum, even before the announcement of a policy, and have "de-facto ownership" in several new telecom enterprises. Licenses were granted to several ineligible applicants. Several licensees have spectrum in excess of their entitlement as per license conditions and not on the self-styled capacity spectrum efficiency that you have chosen to mention. This is the smoke screen that I am referring to as these subverters of government policy continue to do so to their advantage and their acts are being ignored or condoned. TTSL, on the other hand, as an existing licensee, applied for spectrum under the dual technology policy after the policy was announced on October 19"", 2007 and is still awaiting allotment of spectrum in Delhi and 39 key districts for about three years whereas operators who applied - and paid the fee even before the policy announcement were not only considered ahead in line but were allotted spectrum with amazing alacrity in January 2008 itself. I am surprised that you have chosen to sidestep this very important aspect

The investment by NTT DoCoMo in TTSL was not based on a zero base valuation, like others, but was based on the performance of the company with 38 million subscribers, pan-India presence of network, offices, channel, turnover of Rs.6,000 crores, 60,000 km. of fiber: - and the potential growth of the company. The valuations are on the basis of a due diligence and service evaluation of the company's service quality by DoCoMo.

On the question of hoarding of spectrum to which I have referred, you will no doubt remember that in 2005 i made an issue of the fact that spectrum was a scarce resource and needed to be paid for rather than given free as was being proposed. The government policy entitled operators to no more than 6.2 MHz on the basis of their license conditions. All additional spectrum should have been returned or paid for. Even TRAI has recommended this in July 2010. l believe that TTSL was the only operator that returned spectrum when demanded by DoT. The CAG report clearly indicates which of the powerful GSM operators are holding spectrum beyond their entitlement free of cost and to the detriment of the other operators

On the question of many disadvantaged new applicants who have supposedly been denied licenses in 2007, you are well aware that many of the applicants were proxy shareholders in high places, and were applying to enter the sector with a view to monetize the license once received. Even those that were granted license and spectrum have failed to effect any meaningful rollout of services. Strangely, you have chosen to ignore this fact and singled out TTSL who have, in fact, put in place a network supporting 82 million subscribers, despite the fact that they have been deprived of spectrum in Delhi and the 39 key districts over the past 3 years as mentioned earlier. How could you or anybody possibly consider this to be a beneficial situation for TTSL?

Let me address the question of the Tatas' need for an external PR service provider. Ten years ago, Tatas found themselves under attack in a media campaign to defame the ethics and value systems of the group which held it apart from others in India. The campaign was instituted and sustained through an unholy nexus between certain corporates and the media through selected journalists. As Tatas did not enjoy any such "captive connections" in this environment, the Tata Group, had no option but to seek an external agency focused at projecting its point of view in the media and countering the misinformation and vested interest viewpoints which were being expressed. Vaishnavi was commissioned for this purpose and has operated effectively since 2001. You yourself have interacted with Niira Radia on some occasions in the past and it is therefore amazing that you should now, after nearly nine years, seek to denounce Tatas' appointment of Vaishnavi. Also, the statement regarding Tatas employing Mr. Baijal is completely false. Vaishnavi is neither owned by the Tata Group nor is the Tata Group Vaishnavi's only client. Mr. Baijal, whom you apparently have a dislike, is part of Noesis, (an affiliate of Vaishnavi in which Tatas have no ownership) and, as facts will show, on various occasions has differed with the Tata Group during his period in office and has not advocated or influenced Telecom policy for the Tata Group in any way.

You and many others have focused your attention on Ms. Radia as a corporate lobbyist. I would like to draw your attention to the following-

You parked yourself at the Taj Mahal Hotel Delhi, for several months since 2002 which was the centre of operations for you to prevent entry of VVLL Limited Mobility and CDMA as well as to interact with the polity and bureaucracy and with other operators to forge telecom policy of your choice. You did this in your own capacity as also as President of COAI.

You also constantly solicited support of CII.
Would you not consider this as an endeavor to influence or subvert policy? To influence politicians or solicit support from selected corporates? l take it that in your view this would not constitute lobbying.

Your affiliation with a particular political party is well known and it appears that their political aspirations and their endeavor to embarrass the Prime Minister and the ruling party may well have been the motivation behind your letter and the insinuations which you make. We should all note that many of the flip flops in the telecom policy occurred during the BJP regime. Whatever may be said, it must be recognized that the recent policy broke the powerful cartel which had been holding back competition and delaying implementation of policies not to their liking, such as growth of CDMA technologies, new GSM entrants, revision in subscriber based spectrum allocation norms, and now even number portability. You yourself have publicly commended in November 2007 such initiatives and the minister for breaking the cartel and reducing the cost of service to the customer.

The 2G scam ostensibly revolved around Mr. Ragas alleged misdeeds and some parts of the CAG report were quoted as having indicted the minister. Much has been made about the hypothetical loss to the exchequer in the grant of new licenses and the grant of spectrum on the basis of 3G auction prices, (which were not known or even foreseen at the time of granting such licenses and spectrum). However, the media and even you have chosen to ignore the rest of the CAG report in which excess possession of spectrum, the disadvantages to TTSL by name, the irregularity in allotment of licenses to most players whose applications were ineligible to be considered in the first place have been clearly stated in detail. You have also not noticed that the CAG has not ascribed value to 48 new GSM licenses issued to incumbents between 2004-08 and 65 MHZ of additional spectrum allotted to incumbents during this period even though the CAG was supposed to cover the period from 2003. l would have thought that all this would have been of public interest and should have been widely reported. l support the ongoing investigations and believe that the period of investigation be extended to 2001 for the nation to know the real beneficiaries of the ad hoc policy-making and implementation.

Finally, you have chosen to lecture me on the responsibilities of upholding the ethics and values which the Tata Group has honored and adhered to through the years. l can say categorically that we have not wavered in upholding our values and ethical standards despite the erosion in the ethical fabric in the country and despite the efforts of others to draw us into controversy and endeavor to besmirch our record. When the present sensational smokescreen dies down, as it will, and the true facts emerge, it will be for the people of India to determine who are the culprits that enjoy political patronage and protection and who actually subvert policy and who have dual standards. I can hold my head high and say that neither the Tata Group or l have at any time been involved in any of these misdeeds.

The selective reporting and your own selective focus appear to be diversionary actions to deflect attention away from the real issue which plagues the telecom industry, in the interest of a few powerful politically connected operators. Perhaps it is time that you and members of the media de some introspection and soul searching as to whether you have been serving your masters or serving the general public at large.

With warm regards,
Yours sincerely,

Rajeev's reply to the above letter of Ratan Tata.

Dear Mr Tata,

I welcome your joining this debate. It is an important one and needs to be settled in full public view. Unfortunately, your response is
a typical one that ducks the main issues and instead attempts to shoot the messenger!

I am only disappointed, but no longer surprised, that in sharp contrast to my efforts to go out of the way to keep this debate relating to facts and policy discussions - your letter is intensely personal, attributes feeble motives (including amusing Political ones) and most unbecoming of the House of Tatas. I can only think that this is a lapse in good judgment. I particularly find your self-appointed defence of the Prime Minister and Government very irrelevant. 
Nevertheless, I promise to keep my response dignified and steadfastly refuse to fall to your level of personal attacks.
On facts, your letter is not just exceptionally weak, but in fact, refuses to engage on the issues that I had raised - the yawning gap between what you say in public and what your companies do. While those remain unanswered, I will certainly reply shortly with my response. I promise to rebut your allegations, claims and innuendo - chapter and verse in the public domain.
Best regards,
Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Member of Parliament
New Delhi
09 December, 2010


Anjali said...

It seems that the Congress is doin enough to rebound the Spectrum scam to the NDA,to divide the opposition parties by using TATAS and others..I think the Left parties 'll fall into the trap of such tactics

jayasree said...

Yes, I agree with you Ms Anjali.
But let us wait and see what the CBI under SC guidance does. If the CBI does a genuine job, Congress can not drag its feet.

Anjali said...

Do u still hav any faith in the CBI sir?Amit shah was questioned aft bein arrested..but here is a minister who is not questioned even aft two years,even aft he was sacked&his houses was raided&he is indicted in the CAG..even the house raid is an eye wash in the wake of supreme court's could believe this CBI?

jayasree said...

At the moment the TV news says that the CBI is about to question him.It is now under the direction of SC. The local CBI officials of Tamilnadu were not involved in the raids in Raja's premises in Chennai. Let us wait and see.

Anjali said...

Do u think the JPC is the only way out?this parliament session is goin to end in 13th..aft that?

jayasree said...

Ultimately, Raja and others must be hooked. Dr Swami said that he would file a case against Raja and then bring to book others also. But before he could do that, the SC is going in that direction. So I hope - hope - that what is to be done ultimately ,will be done, or somehow be done.

On JPC, rather than who is right or wrong, the question remains why the Congress should shy away from that? The extraordinary feature of the JPC is that it could summon PM or even Sonia Gandhi. Is that what is troubling Congress? Why should they want to avoid JPC or keep these VIIP s away from questioning? This gives a perfect justification for having the JPC.

Anjali said...

In case of such developments, Wat do u think the prime minister must do to save his remaining gud name in this issue?..bcoz this is the first time the opposition parties targeted him directly..(though for inaction)it seems he'll prove to the world that he is indeed a 'weak prime minister'..

jayasree said...

He has already proved that he is weak.

Chandramouli said...

It is shocking that Tata whom we have been keeping in high esteeem and respect now sings a different tune, with wishy-washy reply. Something is certainly rotten between politics and corporates.

Anjali said...

We must made up our mind for more shocks...i think it's just the beginning..

jayasree said...

Yes, we may be in for some shocks. But I dont think many prominent heads will roll. A.Raja will become a scapegoat and big names will be hidden.

Anjali said...

Yes..every issue has a Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi.i don't think that they could hav done all these things witout the acknowledgement of the higher command..