India’s PM concedes to new telecom scam probe

NEW DELHI, February 22, 2011 (AFP) – India’s premier on Tuesday bowed to opposition pressure to set up a cross-party probe into the government’s tainted 2008 sales of telecom licences which cost the country up to $40 billion. Observers say the ruling Congress party’s woes have led to policy drift with important economic reform legislation put on hold. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s announcement came as his embattled Congress government sought to clear the way for parliamentary passage of the national budget to be presented at the end of the month.

The opposition had paralysed the last session of parliament by holding daily protests demanding an investigation into the cut-rate sale of second-generation (2G) telecom licences that was overseen by ex-telecom minister A. Raja.

The parliamentary probe, which could last for months, coincides with an ongoing police investigation into what has been described as one of the biggest corruption scandals in India’s history.

Raja, who stepped down last November, has been arrested and is currently in jail, while a host of senior businessmen including Anil Ambani, one of India’s richest tycoons, have been questioned over the alleged scam.

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