Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So, how much is Rs 1.76 lakh crore?

2G Spectrum Scam
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) states that the Government of India gave away $40 billion (1.76 lakh crore or Rs 17,60,00,00,00,000) when it allocated rights to the 2G spectrum (that's second generation wireless bandwidth) to new bidders at giveaway prices. 

Whew! That's a lot of zeroes! But what does this mean in real terms? When you hear people say that we can't afford to pay state-mandated minimum wages to workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), don't believe it.  The Union budget for 2010-11 allocates Rs 40,100 crore for the MGNREGA. With the money recovered from the 2G giveaway, we could fund rural employment for more than four years.(If we got back the overseas black money, we could fund rural jobs for 50 years!) If we kick in the money already budgeted for the program, we could vastly expand the wages and the reach of the program. And remember, all that extra money in the hands of rural farm labourers would fuel a boom in our rural economy, whereas extra money in the hands of billionaires too often ends up fleeing the country!

Just so we are clear: the airwaves, like the air, rivers, and most natural resources, are owned by the people of India--and it's the Government of India's job to make sure these resources are managed in the interest of the people.  So selling the airwaves at ridiculously low prices is a violation of the public trust.  It's like selling a public park to a developer for a pittance: most of us lose; only the developer gets rich.

Source: Green Light Dhaba; read detailed piece

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