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Updated: April 15, 2011 13:48 IST

ISRO spectrum deal under review: Centre

Sandeep Joshi
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File photo of Antariksh Bhavan in Bangalore, which houses the Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
File photo of Antariksh Bhavan in Bangalore, which houses the Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Audit is in very preliminary stage, says CAG

In the aftermath of the expose by Business Line and The Hindu, the Central government said on Monday that it was in the process of reviewing the deal between the Indian Space Research Organisation's commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd. and the Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia Pvt. Ltd. that gave Devas free access to scarce spectrum worth an estimated Rs. 2 lakh crore.

“The agreement entered into by Antrix and Devas on January 28, 2005 is already under review by the Department of Space and the government will take whatever steps necessary to safeguard public interest. A decision on the matter is likely to be taken soon,” ISRO said in a statement that was released here as well as in Bangalore. ISRO comes under the Department of Space, which is under the charge of the Prime Minister.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India is currently auditing the 2005 agreement between the two firms that gives Devas Multimedia unbridled use of 70 MHz of spectrum, used for high-speed terrestrial mobile communications, over a 20-year period.

Reacting to the reports, the CAG said the audit of certain activities of the Department of Space was under way. “Very preliminary queries have been raised which are yet to be replied by that department. Since the audit is at very preliminary stage, it can by no stretch of imagination be concluded that information as given in the media reports are findings of this department,” the CAG said.

The DoS statement also referred to this clarification by the CAG.

Interestingly, the Law Ministry had already asked the Department of Space to nullify the deal between Antrix and Devas after the DoS had sought its view on the matter. Even the Space Commission in July 2010 had strongly objected to the deal and recommended scrapping of the agreement between the two companies.

When contacted, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) refused to comment on this particular case. However, a senior official pointed out that the delay in a thorough review of the usage of spectrum being held by various government agencies is the root cause of the mess.

“In May last year, we had forwarded our recommendations asking the Department of Telecommunications [which is the custodian of spectrum in the country] to allow it to review of the usage of spectrum available with various government agencies,” a TRAI official said.

“We wanted to find out the spectrum actually in use by government agencies and draw up a suitable schedule for release of spectrum for telecom sector for speedier roll out of more efficient telecom and broadband services in the country,” the official said. The government is yet to accept the recommendations.

Out of the total 1,161 MHz of available spectrum in the identified bands, 40-55 per cent is with the government agencies including the Defence and the DoS and only 85 MHz of radio waves is likely to be available by 2014. This is despite the fact that the telecom sector is facing severe dearth of spectrum.

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Most interestingly, besides Kiran Karnik spent 20 yrs in ISRO is also the Co-Chairman of National Foundation of Corporate Governance of India. He himself handled much debate on responsibitlity of Independet Director during Satyam and to address this NFCG was set up which he co-chairs. Now he states 'He is Only an Independent Director - in Devas and now stepping down'. Only because of his outward intellectual personality and deepest connections in Government ranks and Industry- no one questions him in Media..

from:  Upreti
Posted on: Feb 11, 2011 at 11:33 IST

Raja is easily arrested because of his dalit caste but tainted Kasturirangan Ba Brahmin and Madavan Nair not arrested. Is there any caste based discrimination.

from:  Nanjilkumaran
Posted on: Feb 10, 2011 at 12:20 IST

The ISRO scam is not an issue of corruption but a well organized conspiracy to hijack ISRO for the purpose of self aggrandizement. Born of guild mindset of lower order, it seeks to traditionalize recurrent source of income to technocrats of ISRO. It has operated as a private company to further the interest of the so called scientists of our country and has subverted the sublime aim of India to lift the country’s image in the eyes of the world as a country of technological self-reliance. Those involved must be tried under charges of treason rather than corruption.

from:  Kadir Ismail
Posted on: Feb 10, 2011 at 11:00 IST

Yesterday, I was plesantly surprised to read about one of our erstwhile Indian leaders: There was the national Congress leader, Chittaranjan Das, who died in 1925, and it is reported that Gandhiji himself carried his dead for cremation.Das was a poor man. He studied law and earned well from his practice. His father had declared himself insolvent and died in poverty. The first thing Chittaranjan Das did with his earnings was to clear all the debts and had his dead father's name struck off from the insolvency list. A few years before his death Das gifted his house and the adjoining lands to the Nation to be used for the betterment of the lives of women. Here we can see the nobility of the human mind. He could have easily ignored the debts since his father was already dead, but to him honour was more important than money. Today we have lost that character. Today money is everything and honour is of no importance, and such a difference within a span of eighty-five years!

from:  Ramya Senthilrajan
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 19:45 IST

All these scams are going to make big impact on the growth of our economy. In Government no file is moving; everybody wants to secure themselves.

from:  S Srinivasan
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 14:37 IST

All scams are by-product of new economic policy (globalization, libralization, privatization). The governments/political parties who introduced/ implemented/ carried forward and supported these policies must be brought to book.

from:  Susarla Ramesh
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 14:12 IST

What is wrong in giving the spectrum for testing the transponder? It is any way being used for ISRO's purpose. I think we cannot entirely blame Devas for this deal. Everyone wants to get the deal at a cheaper rate and it is the responsibility of both the parties to arrive at a common price. Also, we need to understand that Devas is using the spectrum only for testing the transponder and they neither own it nor bought it and they are not using it for any other purpose. They just leased it for 20 years. Also, I agree with one of our readers that the board of directors from both the parties need to be probed for any murky deals. CAG should also review all other business transactions happened in the country in the last 10 years. We shall put an end to corruption. This would contribute a lot to our GDP and country's prosperity. Also, this issue in a way is deviating the swiss bank money issue in the country.

from:  Anil
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 13:03 IST

Why should it take five long years and an expose for review of an agreement done with no transparency or a well laid down bidding process? This seems to be a deliberate act with bad intent !!

from:  M.S. Rajasekaran
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 12:54 IST

All these scams are just tip of iceberg! Common people just find it difficult to meet two ends in India! From where all this money comes? Can you give any reason to believe in government,judiciary and politicians or to live in India?

from:  Ranju
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 10:12 IST

Ignoring the objections made by the Space Commission, Devas Multimedia has been given some spectrum. When BSNL/MTNL were given access to 20 Mhz for Rs.12,847 crores, whereas, Devas were "gifted away with an access of 70 Mhz for mere Rs.1000 crores'! What a blatant loot of Government revenue. The observations made by CAG are very pertinent. The ISRO authorities concerned are no less than terrorists who enabled to loot the Government revenue. "The concealed hand of the party in power" should be brought to book besides awarding corporal punishment.

from:  Devulapalli Srinivasa Murti
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 09:47 IST

A contract is a legally binding agreement between two parties and it cannot be unilaterrally abrogated by either party except under specific provision(s) in the contract. Does the contract between Antrix Corporation Ltd. and the Devas Multimedia Pvt. Ltd contain an unheard off provision that the former can annul the contract whenever it was found out that it made a judgemental mistake in entering into the contact? As in matters relating to economics, the government is taking advantage of the peoples' lack of knowledge of law to get out of a difficult situation.The Indian media, which is on an exposure spree,should expose this too.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 09:44 IST

Kiran Karnik's name comes up in all major scandals. He as head of Nasscom abused his powers to get onto board of EMRI (company promoted by Rajus of Satyam) and now he is a board member of Devas Multimedia. By the way way few would know that Kiran Karnik was with ISRO for extended period and probably used his contacts to get a 'deal' for Devas. Kiran Karnik needs to be fully probed.

from:  Antesh
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 09:40 IST

I feel there should be concurrency in audit of govt activities. ISRO is a 2005 story. 2G is 2001-8 story. We should be auditing within three years of a govt transaction/business. By the way, I feel ISRO is a non-issue because the spectrum was given to one company that is easy to audit, has minimal multifaceted policy implication amongst spectrum technical experts.

from:  Dr M Verma
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 01:30 IST

So many scams. One wonders how many more are there? It appears that the politically powerful are looting the country without any fear. Thanks to Mr. Subramanian Swamy, the Supreme Court and the media these scams are coming to light. The guilty remain to be punished.

from:  Krishna
Posted on: Feb 8, 2011 at 00:41 IST
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