The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has convened a video-conference meeting on June 23, 2020, to discuss the serious allegations levelled by Arappor Iyakkam, an anti-corruption body, in the ₹1,950 crore BharatNet tender floated by the Tamil Nadu Fibernet Corporation Limited (TANFINET).

Advising the TANFINET to extend the date for submission of bids in the tender, the DPIIT said its Additional Secretary would chair the video-conference to discuss the grievances flagged by Arappor Iyakkam, Chennai, Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council (TEPC), New Delhi, and Tejas Networks Limited, Bengaluru.

Besides the complainants, the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, New Delhi, Additional Chief Secretary (Information Technology), Government of Tamil Nadu, Chennai, Managing Director, TANFINET, Chennai, were among others who would participate in the virtual meet.

Last month, the DPIIT had calling for an urgent report on the allegations levelled by Arappor Iyakkam. The alleged irregularities pertained to violations in the tender conditions by increasing the turnover, experience and tweaking configuration of routers to suit two specific companies and thereby eliminating competition by the issue of a corrigendum to the tender floated by TANFINET and the IT Department on April 15, 2020. The DPIIT later requested the Additional Chief Secretary to advice TANFINET “not to hasten” the opening of tenders without its clearance.

“Though the Centre restrained the government from finalising and opening tenders pending disposal of the complaint, which also meant that the tenders should be kept open for more bidders to participate, the State violated the advisory by closing options for submissions and removed the tender from the website on June 12, 2020. We flagged the issued with the DPIIT which asked the State authorities to extend the submission dates,” Jayaram Venkatesan, convenor, Arappor Iyakkam, said on Monday.

Action sought

He said Arappor Iyakkam had also sought action against officials responsible for the “arbitrary” and “massive” changes in the tender conditions to favour certain companies. “We have already made out points clear to the DPIIT and the State has also been advised to submit their version before the video-conferencing. The meeting has been convened online in view of the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown conditions,” Mr. Venkatesan said.

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