February 27, 2021
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'Minister Steals A Telephone Exchange'

'Minister Steals A Telephone Exchange'

As if the ignominy of being routinely pulled up by the Supreme Court and its former ministers, prominent personages and allies being in Tihar jail on corruption charges were not enough, the UPA still continues to brazen out new revelations of scams -- actually, news of old scams -- on a daily basis.

Take the 2G scam which resulted in Mr A. Raja and Ms M.K. Kanimozhi being sent to Tihar.

First came the revelation last week by Tehelka that Sun TV Group, owned by the family of current union textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran, received Rs 700 crores from Malaysian business conglomerate Maxis Group which benefitted from equity sold by Aircel, the country’s seventh biggest telecom operator that had benefitted from Mr Maran's largesse as the telecom minister.

There was not a squeak from the UPA or the Prime Minister. Or indeed from any inner voice. Mr Maran came out with the usual response of being maliciously and unfairly targeted and continued to be in the cabinet. Clearly, the PM did not think it necessary to ask him to resign.

And today Mr S. Gurumurthy, writing in the New Indian Express,has charged that the same Mr Dayanidhi Maran, as telecom minister, was running a veritable stolen telephone exchange from his residence in Chennai:

Indeed a shocking, daring robbery. A telecom central minister from Tamil Nadu got the BSNL to connect 323 telephone lines to his home, not in Delhi where he had work, but in Chennai where he had none. He got all the 323 home lines listed not in his name but in the name of the Chief General Manager BSNL Chennai. These lines virtually constituted a telephone exchange in the minister’s home. It was exclusively used for his family business by laying 3.4 km long secret cable along public roads to connect the lines to the business premises. This had caused huge loss to BSNL.

The CBI had recommended action against Maran as early as in September 2007. Mr Gurumurthy's article is based a CBI letter to the then Telecom Secretary asking that the matter be brought  “to the notice of” the then telecom minister, who happened to be one Mr A. Raja.

The UPA, and its fabled inner voice, is silent on Mr Maran, just as it was over Mr Raja initially.  Or perhaps they are busy dealing with Baba Ramdev, and whether or not it betrayed a sense of nervousness to have sent four ministers to receive him at the airport yesterday. The PM, who has been sought, suddenly, to be kept out of the ambit of the Lokpal Bill, is of course as silent as ever. On his part, Mr Maran, apart from sending legal notices to media outlets, says these are old charges which had been rubbished in 2009 on a similar news report

Citing a letter from the State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd when he was the Union Telecom Minister, Maran said, "The letter from BSNL shows, I have only one phone connection."

"I wrote to the Chief General Manager and asked him to explain me, how many lines are there in my residence at Boat Club. Only One BSNL telephone connection, 24375100, was provided to me as a Minister," he said.

"If I have done wrong, I am ready to face any punishment. I do not need any sympathies and I have to be judged by the law. But if I am innocent, I should be given every right to protect myself and to prove my integrity," he said.

As Mr Gurumurthy writes:

Haunted by the 2-G scam, Raja resigned in November 2010 and Kapil Sibal took over. Sibal is sitting on the CBI report since then.

And Maran, as Textile Minister, is sitting in cabinet meetings along with Sibal.And despite the CBI advice for action against Maran sleeping for over 44 months, now Prime Minister promises to Baba Ramdev that he would tackle corruption with “seriousness” and “without delay”, while he himself is still sitting with Maran in cabinet meetings. It seems as much a comedy as it is a tragedy.

History. Tragedy. Farce. You decide.

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