Somnath Chatterjee's Letter to the President

Wednesday, July 21, 1999

Letter Written by Somnath Chatterjee to the President of India


July 21, 1999

Respected Rashtrapathiji,

I am constrained to write to you in the wake of the confusion which the Government is attempting to create on the basis of the letter I had written to the Prime Minister on 12 May, 1999 on the telecom controversy.

At the very outset, I want to make it very clear that I am totally opposed to the Government, which has lost its majority on the floor of the House, taking any policy decision whatsoever. This is exactly what the Government is attempting on the telecom issue. I oppose this unequivocally. It is all the more reprehensible that the Prime Minister and the Government are trying to do so by citing my letter to justify their action.

I wish to make it very clear that the letter that I had addressed to the Prime Minister on 12 May, 1999 was not intended to express my views on the subject of the migration of cellular operators from fixed license fee regime to the new NTP 1999 regime. As I had clearly pointed out in the very first paragraph of the said letter, different people with different views interact with us on several issues of their concern. They also come to us with their representation. And we are duty bound as public representatives to bring these issues to the attention of the Government for examination. In this case, the representatives of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) represented before me all the more because I happened to be the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications. On perusal of my letter, it will be absolutely evident to you that the letter amounted to a mere forwarding of the views and concerns of the COAI. It had nothing to do with my own views or that of the Standing Committee on the subject. The Government claims as reported in the press that Standing Committee had deliberated on the issue is nothing but intended to create a wrong impression. The only point I made was that the government should examine the concerns expressed by COAI. And my own views are that nothing should be done by the Government to jeopardize national interest.

I must also clarify one newspaper report stating that the government sources had claimed that I met the Prime Minister and urged him to do what they did. I emphatically deny that I ever met the Prime Minister on this issue. As a matter of fact, the last time I saw him was on the day when his Motion of Confidence was defeated in the House.

Taking this opportunity I would also like to bring to your kind notice that I have got reliable information that the unanimous recommendation of the Standing Committee, of which I was the Chairman, for the creation of a Telecom Development Fund (TDF) from resources collected as license fee and budgetary support was accepted by the Ministry of Communications and was part of the agenda to be adopted by the cabinet on 6 July, 1999. I also have information that while the cabinet adopted the controversial decision on the migration of existing license fee regime based operators to the NTP 1999 regime, the proposed decision on the creation of the TDF was dropped. This is a clear pointer to the present Government's attitude towards the question of development of the Telecom sector.

I hope this will clarify the confusion which is being sought to be created by the Government by referring to my name to justify their irregular action.

With warn personal regards,

Yours sincerely

Somnath Chatterjee



Dr. K.R. Narayanan

Hon'ble President of India

New Delhi