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Updated: February 15, 2011 02:51 IST

Who are Devas shareholders, Karat asks government

Staff Reporter
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Prakash Karat, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist) addressing media persons in Bangalore on Sunday. Photo: K. Murali Kumar.
The Hindu
Prakash Karat, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist) addressing media persons in Bangalore on Sunday. Photo: K. Murali Kumar.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat on Sunday said the Union government must reveal the equity structure of Devas Multimedia that signed a contract in 2005 with Antrix, commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), for S-band transponders in two yet to be launched satellites for digital broadcast audio service.

Talking to presspersons here, Mr. Karat wondered how the ISRO allowed a contract to be signed with Devas, which had substantial investment from the U.S., in 2005, when the space agency was under sanctions by the United States. “We demand that the government reveal the names of the shareholders of Devas.”

Brushing aside the government's contention that it was not aware of the dealing, Mr. Karat quoted a recent letter by Devas to the Prime Minister, which stated that its investors were approaching the government and the Prime Minister's Office frequently for the speedy execution of the contract.

The advisers of the Bangalore-based company, who included top officials of the U.S. government like the former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright; the former Security Adviser, Sandy Berger; and Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue Sr., too were in touch with the government in this regard, the letter stated.

Mr. Karat said his party was not satisfied with the Prime Minister's decision to review the spectrum contract between Antrix and Devas. The contract should have been annulled by the government.

“The Additional-Solicitor General and the Space Commission recommended six months ago that the contract be annulled by the Government of India. In such a situation, is it necessary to review the contract, that too by a committee of two officials in the Prime Minister's Office who themselves were involved in drawing up the contract,” Mr. Karat asked.

It was only after irregularities became public did the government talk about strategic and security aspects of the contract. “Why were these vital aspects of national security ignored when the contract was signed in 2005? The Prime Minister, under whose direct control is the ISRO, was answerable.”

Asked whether the party would seek an inquiry by the Joint Parliamentary Committee into this issue too, Mr. Karat said the government should first fulfil the Opposition's demand for a JPC probe into the 2G spectrum scam.

Food Security Bill

Hoping that the budget session of Parliament would be a smooth affair following the government's willingness to constitute a JPC probe, Mr. Karat demanded that the Food Security Bill be tabled immediately.

“Despite a steep increase in the prices of food articles, the government refuses to take any effective measure. It has been talking about the bill for long and we haven't seen the legislation as yet,” he said. Even now the party demanded enactment of the legislation and introduction of the universal public distribution system wherein every family would get 35 kg of rice or wheat at Rs. 2 a kg. Eight States were giving rice or wheat at Rs. 2 a kg and it should not be a problem to extend the same across the country, he noted.

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