Ratan Tata stirs Indian 2G row pot

An Indian business leader has decided to stick the wooden spoon into the row over the country’s 2G licensing policy.

Fat cat Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Group and owner of Tata Teleservices, has accused
some of the country’s operators of manipulating the system to meet their own ends. Surely not.

According to a Financial Times report he’s gone as far as accusing “politically motivated operators” of having “willfully subverted policy under various telecoms ministers.”

This isn’t just a case of “sticks and stones” and loose words. There are fears that his stirring could  lead to the two year investigation into the India government’s controversial 2G spectrum auctions to be extended, as officials move to examine the conduct of operators involved.

In a letter to an Indian MP, Tata said that “the same operators continue to subvert policy. [They] have even paid fees for spectrum, even before the announcement of a policy, and have ‘de facto ownership’ in several new telecom enterprises.”

Pot, kettle black? Tata itself picked up one of the controversial licences, as part of a joint venture with Japan’s NTT Docomo, which it now claims has been “severely disadvantaged” by what it alleges is skewed telecoms regulation.

Ratan is well known for sticking the wooden spoon into rows. In November he filed a petition asking that the government investigate a leak of the tapes in the journalist 2G scam.

These are the audio tapes of telephone conversations between former telecommunication minister A Raja and Nira Radia, a lobbyist for industry tycoons including his company and Mukesh Ambani, which are said to show there was a conspiracy in the way the licences were handed out in 2008. He said at the time that they were private conversations and were not meant to come to public light. Basically it’s no fun, this getting caught business.