The 2G spectrum auction might have ended up as a failure but the government’s stand on the issue is far from being vindicated. Firstly, the failure of the auction has definitely dampened the notional loss figure of the CAG which pegged the amount at Rs 1,76,000 crore but there has been a significant development to make note of as 22 licenses which were recently auctioned via bidding fetched the public exchequer a total of Rs 9,400 crore whereas earlier, all the 122 licenses which were allocated through first come, first serve basis fetched the government only Rs 9,200 crore.
Secondly, the controversy is far from being laid to rest as many of the curative petitions of those firms who played by the rules during the earlier held allocation process are still lying with the Supreme Court and the apex court is yet to adjudicate on the matter. It’s very much possible that those firms might have intentionally stayed away from the bidding process as they expect the Supreme Court to provide them with relief. It’ll be interesting to observe the moves of these firms in case the Supreme Court rejects their curative petitions. Will they then jump in the bidding fray or will they abstain?
Thirdly, in the case of the review petition filed by the Government, although the Supreme Court had ruled that auctioning wasn’t the sole possible way of selling scarce public resources but then we still don’t have a very precise and clear cut idea as to what constitutes larger public gain in such matters. We still need to ponder over what is of more value to us. Is public welfare subservient to revenue maximization or it’s the other way round. Fourthly and most importantly, the fact of the matter is that in this particular case we can only go by notional articulations and analogies. A lot of time has went by and it’s nearly impossible to predict as to how would the firms have reacted had the 2G spectrum been auctioned instead of being allocated in the first place. In order to objectively access the government’s erstwhile policy of ‘first come, first serve’ we need to go back in time and evaluate the telecom sector’s performance since 2007 by scrutinizing the effect which the previous policy had on tele-density, customer services and industrial gain.