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Updated: February 16, 2011 08:52 IST

Note for Cabinet Committee indicts Antrix-Devas deal

Thomas K. Thomas
Comment (3)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Department of Space Secretary K. Radhakrishnan during a press conference in New Delhi. According to a note prepared on the Antrix-Devas deal, the Department of Space withheld from the Space Commission as well as the government vital information that the two satellites, GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A, were being built for Devas. Photo: V. Sudershan
The Hindu
Department of Space Secretary K. Radhakrishnan during a press conference in New Delhi. According to a note prepared on the Antrix-Devas deal, the Department of Space withheld from the Space Commission as well as the government vital information that the two satellites, GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A, were being built for Devas. Photo: V. Sudershan

Key details of the agreement between Devas Multimedia and Antrix withheld by the Department of Space for several years have now emerged. According to a note prepared for the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the Department withheld from the Space Commission as well as the government vital information that the two satellites, GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A, were being built for Devas.

“Though the GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A Satellites were being built by ISRO to meet the requirements of PS-1 and PS-2 specified in the Antrix-Devas Agreement,” the note says, “the proposals from Department for approval...did not reflect the conclusion of such an arrangement in January 2005 itself.”

While Antrix signed the agreement on January 28, 2005, it was not until July 2, 2010 — weeks after Business Line revealed the nature of the deal to build the two S-band satellites and lease capacity from them to Devas — that the Space Commission was briefed on the agreement.

The 19-page note, dated February 9 and marked secret, is from Department of Space Secretary K. Radhakrishnan. Approved by the Prime Minister on February 8, it goes for a decision to the CCS, which is scheduled to meet in the morning of February 17.

The proposal is that the CCS should decide that “taking note of the fact that government policies with regard to allocation of spectrum have undergone a change in the last few years and there has been an increased demand for allocation of spectrum for national needs, including for the needs of defence, paramilitary forces, railways and other public utility services as well as for societal needs, and having regard to the needs of the country's strategic requirements, the Government will not be able to provide orbit slot in S-band to Antrix for commercial activities, including for those which are the subject matter of existing contractual obligations for S band.”

Noting that the Antrix-Devas agreement “provides for leasing of 90% of the space segment capacity by Antrix to Devas on two Geostationary Satellites...for 12 years on 24-hour, seven-day-per-week basis,” the document faults the deal on several grounds — technical, commercial, managerial, and financial. However, it soft-pedals the story behind, and the findings of internal investigations relating to, why such a high value deal, with strategic and security implications, was kept secret.

During its July 2010 meeting, the Space Commission took note of the fact that the INSAT Coordination Committee (ICC) guidelines provide for leasing the INSAT capacity for non-government users on a ‘non-exclusive' basis, but in the Antrix-Devas contract, 90 per cent of the capacity was leased to a single party for the full lifespan of the satellite.

“Expressing specifically that the Commission [was] being apprised on the contractual agreement for the first time, and further that the proposals from Department for approval of GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A also did not reflect the conclusion of such an arrangement in January 2005 itself, [the] Commission discussed the various dimensions of the issue in detail,” the note reveals.

It adds that the Space Commission in its July 2010 meeting “deliberated on (i) the procedures followed in selecting Devas, (ii) foreign equity in Devas; (iii) upfront payment made by Devas to Antrix so far, (iv) extent of complementary ground based network required, and access to terrestrial spectrum by Devas for providing value-added services, (v) possibility of Devas moving towards 4G services in the process, and other related aspects.”

Contrary to claims made by Devas Multimedia, the note for the CCS points out that the company had plans to get into terrestrial broadband services in all major urban areas. “Such a dispensation,” the note points out, “might not ensure a level playing field for the other service providers using terrestrial spectrum, especially considering the significant demand for terrestrial S-band spectrum and the current trends on its price.”

Further indicting the agreement, the note states that Antrix would not have got enough revenues to compensate it for the cost of building and launching the satellite. Compared with a total cost of Rs 766 crore, Antrix would have got revenues of Rs 1,350 crore over a 12 year period.

The document reveals that the initial discussions with ISRO were done by a U.S. based entity — Forge Advisors in 2003, which then set up Devas in India in 2004. The Department of Space constituted a one-man committee in December 2009 of Dr B. N. Suresh, a former member of the Space Commission, to comprehensively look into the deal. On June 6, 2010, the committee made suggestions to revisit the agreement.

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Very surprising,national security needs and public utility services were totally forgotten when the deal was executed in 2005 and the Government was sleeping throughout. Government is displaying total dishonesty in taking shelter under the pretext of security requirements. Given this approach on issues like this, I am afraid the country is not in safe hands.

from:  Ramesh Mehta
Posted on: Feb 16, 2011 at 15:28 IST

A new theory of management seems to be emerging from this story. Briefly stated, the theory is that in an organisation it is not the responsibility for the top management to find out what the lower level managers are deciding on and doing even in matters of grave consequence to the organisation and it is left to the discretion of the latter to decide whether and when to keep top management abreast of their decisions and activities however important these are. If the governance of our country is rooted in such a theory, may God help us!

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Feb 16, 2011 at 06:17 IST

MM Singh is selling our nation and her resources to the International Bankers and countries like the USA.Under him,an effort to transfer the National Wealth to Private hands is noticed.India in danger under MM Singh.

from:  Sadasivan
Posted on: Feb 16, 2011 at 03:59 IST
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