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Maran missive to PM on BSNL tender

Chennai, July 14: The row over the delay in awarding Bharat Sanchar Nigam’s contract for GSM lines today took a new turn with former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to probe into the issue.

Maran’s offensive comes close on the heels of his successor A. Raja asking the BSNL board to renegotiate the tender. It also coincided with BSNL employees’ fresh pressure on the communications ministry to take a decision on the tender without delay.

“It is unfortunate to note that a totally unwarranted controversy has been raked up relating to BSNL’s GSM 2G/3G tender and the subsequent strike by the unions of BSNL,” Maran said in a letter to the Prime Minister.

Maran, who was forced to quit the government in May after problems with the DMK, today reacted to Raja’s claim that the lowest tender cleared during Maran’s time could result in a loss of about Rs 10,000 crore.

“I believe that a sinister campaign is being carried out systematically against me by certain vested interests.

“As a minister, it was always my practice to stay out of the tendering process of not only BSNL but also MTNL. The tender, in question, was finalised only by the BSNL board,” he said in the letter to Singh. Maran said he had always observed the highest decorum in public life.

Citing the example of the One India plan, under which people can make STD calls for Re 1 a minute, Maran said during his tenure it was ensured that imports were substituted by persuading leading multinational electronics manufacturing companies to set up facilities in India.

“When facts remain such, I understand that a certain NRI businessman with vested interests is trying to stall the tender process so as to facilitate undue growth of private operators at the cost of BSNL that is on the verge of becoming a navratna company and profit out of it.”

“In the process, I fear seeds of doubt have already been planted in the minds of the public about my integrity,” he said.

He said in the interest of BSNL and to clear his name, he wants the Prime Minister's Office to conduct an enquiry into these allegations.

The BSNL board is slated to meet on Monday to review the 45.5-million GSM line tender.

The meeting assumes importance as the joint forum of BSNL unions and associations, which went on strike this week demanding immediate placement of the order, has given 15 days to the PSU to arrive at a decision on the issue.

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