It highlights serious procedural lapses on the part of senior ISRO scientists
In their stinging indictments, two government-appointed committees, set up to scrutinise the Antrix-Devas agreement, have highlighted serious procedural lapses on the part of, and policy violations by, senior scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), all of which benefited a private company.
The deal reflects “not only serious administrative and procedural lapses but also a suggestion of collusive behaviour on the part of certain individuals,” says the report of the high-level team, headed by the former Central Vigilance Commissioner, Pratyush Sinha, submitted to the government in September last. The second team, a high-power review committee comprising B.K. Chaturvedi and Roddam Narasimha, submitted its report in March last.
Under the January 2005 agreement between the Antrix Corporation, marketing wing of ISRO, and the Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia Private Limited, Devas was allowed unrestricted use of 70 MHz of the scarce S-band spectrum from two exclusive satellites.
The former ISRO Chairman, Madhavan Nair, the former Scientific Secretary at ISRO, K Baskaranarayana, and the former managing director of Antrix Corporation, K.R. Sridharamurthi, were “mainly responsible for leading the Department of Space and Antrix into this arrangement,” says the Pratyush Sinha report.
K.N. Shankara, former director of the ISRO satellite centre, who headed the committee to examine the proposal, is “guilty of not considering all the implications of the agreement he was recommending.”
The Pratyush Sinha report lists another four bureaucrats “found responsible for the acts of omission:” the former Member (Finance), Space Commission, S.S. Meenakshisundaram; and three former Additional Secretaries of the Department of Space, Veena S. Rao, G. Balachandhran and R.G. Nadadur.
The reports cite examples of how information was concealed, facts were obfuscated, and cost calculations even “dissimulated.”
For example, the Cabinet and the Space Commission were kept in the dark about the deal, and the approval process was “riddled with incomplete and inaccurate information,” says the Pratyush Sinha report.