Demand for statement by Prime Minister, and for referring matter to JPC
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday demanded a statement from the Prime Minister on allegations concerning a 2005 agreement between the Indian Space Research Organisation and a private player that involved the allotment of S-band spectrum to that company. Separately, the Left parties described the revelation made on Monday by Business Line and The Hindu as a “serious matter.”
A day ahead of a meeting of leaders of Opposition parties called for Tuesday by the leader of the House, Pranab Mukherjee, to find a way out of the parliamentary impasse witnessed during the winter session over a round of allotments made in 2008 by the Department of Telecommunications, the Left parties and the BJP appeared to be firm on their demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into that deal. The newly revealed deal under which ISRO is seeking to give away 70 MHz of the scarce S-band spectrum to Devas Multimedia Private Ltd. seemed to add a new impetus to the JPC demand.
However, the Congress reacted to the reports cautiously and in a circumspect manner. Party spokesperson Shakil Ahmed said here: “Whenever a CAG report reports a loss of revenue, it is sent to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament for scrutiny. The key audit paragraphs will be examined by the PAC.”
But BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman demanded that the agreement with Devas be “nullified,” and any spectrum allocated “recovered.” She wanted an inquiry ordered into the issue.
The Prime Minister, who heads the Department of Space (DoS) as a Cabinet Minister, should make a statement to clarify matters, the BJP spokesperson added.
She said that of a total of 190 MHz available in the S-band, 150 MHz was with the DoS. Now it would seem that 70 MHz out of this has been allotted to a private company.
The Left parties reasserted the demand for a JPC probe into the 2G spectrum allocation issue even as they said they awaited a formal proposal from the government at the meeting called by Mr. Mukherjee.
“The Left is for a JPC on 2G… we stick by our demand. The arrest of [former Telecom Minister] A. Raja reinforces the need,” CPI(M) Rajya Sabha leader Sitaram Yechury said at a press conference, at which other Left party leaders spoke. He said only a JPC can go into all the aspects to find out how the system was so manipulated and suggest new regulations or new laws to avoid future scams. The Left parties want both the Houses to function during the upcoming session, but said the responsibility to run Parliament lies with the government.
Asked about the spectrum allocation issue reported on Monday, Mr. Yechury and D. Raja of the CPI both said it is a serious matter that needs to be investigated.
The CPI leader said the revelations added a new dimension to the 2G spectrum scam. “ISRO is directly under the control of the Department of Space headed by the Prime Minister. It's very serious as ISRO deals with space and it has implications on our security.” Revolutionary Socialist Party leader Abani Roy said the Left would “definitely” demand the inclusion of the “new scam” in the ambit of a JPC.