Crisis averted

The announcement by the government to set up a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe the 2G spectrum allocation scam has hopefully ended the months-old stand off between the UPA and the opposition over the issue. Much political acrimony and wastage of an entire session of parliament could have been avoided if the decision had been taken earlier. The government did not gain from its obduracy but instead had to pay a price in terms of the public perception that it had much to hide. The revelations from other investigations and the arrest of former telecom minister A Raja and his aides only strengthened that perception. It has now made a climbdown when no other option is left, as loss of one more parliament session would have made its position completely untenable.

The effort now should be to make the parliamentary probe a success by unearthing the entire gamut of irregularities in spectrum allocation and fixing responsibility for the acts of omission and commission on the part of both politicians and officials. Parliamentary committees which investigated other issues in the past have not done any great job. The spectrum JPC has the advantage that it has access to the results of investigations conducted by other agencies like the CAG, the CBI, the ED and the Shivraj Patil committee appointed by the government. It will have the power and opportunity to go beyond the procedural lapses and the illegalities involved in the decisions that made the scam and to examine the policy framework and systemic weaknesses which made it possible for a few individuals to commit irregularities with ease and cause unimaginable loss to the nation. Naturally the nexus between politics and business and the issues related to the supervision of ministerial actions by the prime minister, which are important for a regime of checks and balances, will also come under the scanner. The JPC can lay down guidelines to be followed in the future in the utilisation of national resources like spectrum so that discretion and arbitrariness do not influence government decisions. It is important that the panel’s terms should cover all these aspects.

No time should be lost in wrangling over membership and the JPC should work in a time-bound and transparent manner so that the results of its investigations and the recommendations are available at the earliest. Its findings can also help the CBI in its ongoing criminal investigations.

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