Tuesday, October 5, 2010

another example of govt nepotism

The telecom ministry is finding itself in the eye of a fresh storm with allegations that it is using suspicious and surreptitious means for the appointment of BSNL's chairman and managing director. Identifying a powerful leader for BSNL, who can withstand political interference, has been a PMO-led mandate after the rapid dwindling of BSNL's fortunes following the appointment of A Raja as telecom minister in May 2007. From a net profit of Rs 10,183.89 crore in 2004-05, the telecom giant posted a declared loss of Rs 1,800 crore in 2009-10, with estimated losses of Rs 4,000 crore for 2010-11.

BSNL's executive unions and a well-known NGO called Telecom Watchdog have independently accused the DoT and R K Chandolia, advisor (economic) in particular, of manipulating the eligibility criteria and scheduling interviews in a suspiciously hasty manner to favour a particular candidate. Letters requesting the intervention of the PM and the cabinet secretary have already been sent with copies to the principal secretary, DoT secretary, secretary, department of personnel and other officials. According to Telecom Watchdog, "Suddenly, on September 28, the DoT issued letters to a selected few persons, asking them to come for an interview on Sunday, October 3. The interviews have been scheduled in haste and on a day when the entire country will be busy in the CWG inauguration and amidst speculation of the communication minister (A Raja) being changed after the notice on 2G spectrum scam by the Hon'ble Supreme Court".

The NGO further alleges, "We have come to know that one Mr R K Chandolia, advisor (economic) in the DoT, is manipulating this. He wants to appoint his favoured candidate R K Upadhya, CMD-TCIL as the CMD-BSNL. In view of the above, you are requested to issue necessary direction to the DoT to stop interviews forthwith and not to mingle with the eligibility criteria".

However, DoT secretary R Chandrashekhar told ToI that due process as defined by the selection committee was being followed. "There is an urgency to fill up the post of CMD- BSNL as it is an important mandate. Candidates were short listed on Sunday, while the interviews were held on Monday (October 4) in the presence of the cabinet secretary as he could not be present on Sunday," he said.

According to CAG, in the allotment of 2G licences in January 2008, DoT had acted in a similar fashion by favouring some companies over others by using an opaque criteria. In this case, both BSNL's executive unions and Telecom Watchdog caution that if DoT wants to follow different eligibility criteria, it should call for fresh applications, instead of manipulating existing norms to apoint a favoured person.