The much awaited reports by two committees set up by the Government of India to review the technical, commercial, procedural and financial aspects of the controversial Antrix-Devas agreement, on the basis of which the former Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman, Madhavan Nair, and three other scientists were barred from holding government posts, was made public late on Saturday night.
An expose by The Hindu-Business Line on the Antrix-Devas agreement had highlighted several major lapses, with serious financial implications in the January 2005 agreement signed between Antrix, the marketing wing of ISRO and Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd. The report of the High Powered Review Committee, comprising B.K. Chaturvedi, Member, Planning Commission and Professor Roddam Narasimha, Member, Space Commission appointed on 10th February 2011, reflects several of these concerns.
“The Space Commission and the Cabinet were not informed of the Antrix-Devas agreement or its implications for usage of spectrum for defence or security purposes,” the report states. The agreement provided for transponder leasing by Antrix to Devas for 90 percent of the satellite transponder capacity in S-Band. “Proposals of GSAT-6 or GSAT- 6A involving use of satellite capacity were never discussed in ICC [INSAT Coordiation Committee] nor authorised by it,” the Report states. “In the TAG [Technical Advisory Group], a brief mention was made in October, 2004 about the Antrix-Devas agreement but no approval was sought.”
The report points out to several other lapses, stating that the Agreement “had several weaknesses,” that it was signed with a company that in January 2005 had a paid up share capital of only Rs. 1,00,000 and that “ISRO committed itself to launch of satellite incurring the risk of searching for alternative users if Devas failed to develop the technology for mobile services,” adding that “while ISRO was to invest about Rs. 800 crore in two satellites and their launches, it provided 90% of the satellite capacity for Devas, and the use of about 60 MHz of S-Band spectrum in the 2500-2690 MHz band.”
The report states that this spectrum allocation seems “disproportionately large considering that reportedly in the U.S., Korea and Japan, 20-25 MHz in this band had been used for similar services.” It states that the Chairman, Antrix Board/Secretary Department of Space, Director, SATCOM, ISRO, Member (Finance), Space Commission were “primarily responsible for the lapse.”
Subsequently, a five-member High-Level Team led by the former Central Vigilance Commissioner, Pratyusha Sinha, was asked by the government to examine the deal and fix responsibility for acts of omission or commission. “It is very clear that there has been serious lapses of judgement on the part of a number of officials,” their report stated. In the case of some officials, “their actions verged on the point of serious violation of norms and breach of public trust.”