The Space Commission on Saturday set in motion the process for restructuring Antrix Corporation. Antrix, the Indian Space Research Organisation's commercial arm, is caught in a controversy over a deal with Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia.
Reiterating its earlier decision to cancel the two-satellite deal, the Commission, the apex policymaking body for space-related issues, set up a three-member committee to select a full-time Chairman-cum-Managing Director for Antrix.
Until now, the Secretary, Department of Space (DoS), who is also the Chairman of the Space Commission and ISRO, was its Managing Director, looking after day-to-day activities. K. Radhakrishnan held all three posts.
The selection committee will comprise Mr. Radhakrishnan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the government R. Chidambaram, and Space Commission Member (Finance) V.V. Bhat.
Mr. Radhakrishnan told a media conference that the committee would short-list three names for the Space Commission's consideration. Apart from him as Chairman, the Commission includes Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister T.K.A. Nair.
Dr. Radhakrishnan said the contract with Devas needed to be annulled given the requirement of the S-band spectrum for strategic purposes. A final decision may be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security next week.
DoS has prepared a note for the CCS. The note suggests that the government, in exercise of its sovereign power and function, may take a policy decision to the effect that due to strategic requirements, it would not be able to provide an orbital slot in S-band to operate the satellites for commercial activities. The note is being circulated for the comments of the Ministries of Law and Justice, Telecom, Finance, Defence, Home Affairs and External Affairs.
“I can share with you that currently the paper is under consideration of the CCS. We expect the CCS to look at this proposal in the coming days, and when a decision is conveyed to us I would inform you,” Dr. Radhakrishnan added.
A policy decision to revamp Antrix was taken at the last meeting of the Space Commission on July 2, 2010 in the backdrop of the Devas deal. After deliberating on the contract, the Commission had directed the DoS to review the working of Antrix and restructure it “appropriately.” The Commission, after its July meeting, had also asked DoS to get Antrix to annul the deal.
Under the deal, Devas was to get on lease 90 per cent of the S-band transponders on two new satellites — GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A — for its digital broadcast audio service. The contract was signed in January 2005 and Antrix had got sanction from the Space Commission and the Union Cabinet for the launching the satellites. But they had not been informed that the bulk of the capacity would be leased to Devas.
Devas, which has on its rolls many ex-ISRO officials, was set up by the U.S.-based company Forge Advisors. In 2003, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Antrix to explore opportunities in digital multimedia services.