In­dia tele­com scan­dal par­a­lyzes par­lia­ment ses­sion

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

NEW DELHI: In­dia's par­lia­ment ended its par­a­lyzed win­ter ses­sion Mon­day af­ter four weeks that were largely de­void of work but filled with rau­cous op­po­si­tion de­mands for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a tele­com scan­dal that cost the coun­try bil­lions.

Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh's govern­ment has re­jected the op­po­si­tion's de­mand be­cause the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, In­dia's fed­eral in­ves­ti­gat­ing agency, al­ready is look­ing into the scan­dal and the Supreme Court has been hold­ing hear­ings on it.

Each sit­ting, noisy op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers spilled onto the floor of par­lia­ment, chanted anti-govern­ment slo­gans and de­manded a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee be formed to in­ves­ti­gate. The speaker then ad­journed pro­ceed­ings un­til the next day, hop­ing for a res­o­lu­tion.

The furor cen­tered on the 2008 sale of sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion, or 2G, cel­lu­lar li­censes in a be­wil­der­ing "first-come, first-served" process that net­ted In­dia only 124 bil­lion ru­pees ($2.7 bil­lion) and awarded some li­cense to in­el­i­gi­ble par­tic­i­pants who in turn sold their stakes at a high pre­mium. The state au­di­tor gen­eral re­ported last month the govern­ment that lost as much as $36 bil­lion in po­ten­tial rev­enue by not auc­tion­ing the li­censes.

The leader of the main op­po­si­tion Bharatiya Janata Party was un­apolo­getic Mon­day for the im­passe.

Some­times block­ing leg­isla­tive ac­tion " also yeilds re­sults," Lal Kr­ishna Ad­vani said. He ap­par­ently was re­fer­ring to the fact that even mem­bers of the Singh govern­ment have backed the op­po­si­tion de­mand, in an em­bar­rass­ment for the prime min­is­ter.

Leg­is­la­tion that par­lia­ment didn't ad­dress be­fore its twom­onth re­cess in­volved is­sues such as bank­ing, pris­on­ers, teach­ing, a rag­ing Maoist in­sur­gency and sex­ual ha­rass­ment. Only cru­cial spend­ing bills were ap­proved, but by voice vote rather than full de­bate.

The op­po­si­tion wants a Joint Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate be­cause it would have the power to call Cabi­net mem­bers to tes­tify, and op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers say they don't trust the govern­ment to con­duct a proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion of its own bun­gled li­cens­ing process.

Singh re­fused to budge, say­ing such a com­mit­tee can do noth­ing more than the ex­ist­ing mech­a­nisms.

"I am wor­ried about the fu­ture of the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem in the coun­try. I hope rea­son will pre­vail," he told re­porters over week­end. -Ap

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