India's telecoms minister resigns amid anticorruption drive
India's telecommunications minister resigned Sunday amid a major corruption scandal. His is one of a string of resignations as India's anticorruption drive gets under way.
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Since parliament opened last week, the opposition has repeatedly blocked proceedings, demanding the government act against corruption.Skip to next paragraph
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Fishy telecoms sales
In 2008, Raja’s ministry sold eight new telecom licenses to domestic players for a total of about $2 billion. Many of these firms, newcomers who had little experience in the sector, went on to sell large stakes in their new companies for hefty sums.
This year’s auction of 3G – or third generation – licenses heightened the pressure on Raja. Fetching nearly $15 billion, the sale highlighted the allegedly dirt cheap prices at which 2G licenses had been issued. India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, the country’s anticorruption watchdog, has been investigating the pricing of 2G airwaves since October 2009.
Analysts say they hope Raja’s departure will clear the way for the government to see through important legislative changes that have been held up by the scandals.
Series of resignations and arrests
Earlier this month, two senior Congress leaders quit their posts over corruption allegations. Suresh Kalmadi, who was head of the committee that organized October’s Commonwealth Games and also the parliamentary secretary of the Congress party, stepped down over claims he had siphoned off government money meant for the games. Ashok Chavan last week left his job as chief minister of the western state of Maharashtra over his alleged role in a housing scam in which apartments reserved for widows were sold instead to politicians and Army officers.
In April, Shashi Tharoor resigned as India's junior foreign minister after an especially damaging cricket team ownership scandal.
And Monday, India's top investigating agency arrested two 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games officials for allegedly awarding contracts to companies at inflated prices – the first arrests since a high level investigation was launched last month into corruption charges surrounding the games.
“It is imperative that the Congress and the UPA are not made to feel as if they have achieved something merely by changing the faces at the helm,” stated an editorial in Tuesday's DNA daily newspaper.
“This is often a quick response to end public anger and then it’s back to business as usual. But the extent of money, greed, culpability, and arrogance involved in these three scams are so horrific and the network of people so widespread that three heads will hardly suffice."