Bangalore: The ISRO row escalated on Thursday with former chairman G Madhavan Nair rubbishing allegations of a scam in the scrapped controversial Antrix-Devas deal while space agency chief K Radhakrishnan defended the decision to bar four scientists from any re-employment.
For the second consecutive day Nair, who is among the four scientists barred from government jobs, was unsparing in his criticism of Radhakrishnan and accused him of taking "deliberate action" and then trying to justify it by lining up
arguments in its favour.
The government`s action barring Nair and three eminent space scientists from any re-employment for their alleged role in the controversial allocation of scarce S-band space segment to private firm Devas and his subsequent diatribe against
Radhakrishnan has caused a disquiet among senior ISRO scientists here.
Nair rubbished suggestions of a scam in the Antrix-Devas deal and maintained that estimation of huge loss to the exchequer is "totally erroneous".
The scientists, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the turn of events since yesterday were a sad episode and the space agency`s image has certainly taken a severe beating.
"It`s like ISRO edifice crumbling," one of them said while another felt it was worse than a "couple of mission failures."
One scientist said whatever work done in ISRO over the years is shattered in one moment.
Asked for his comments on the action against Nair and others, former ISRO Chairman U R Rao said: "I have no idea at all. I have nothing to do with it".
Nair, architect of India`s first moon mission, has blamed Radhakrishnan for the action, accusing him of misleading the government and pursuing a "personal agenda".
A source close to Radhakrishnan claimed that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief remained unfazed and believed he has not done anything wrong.
He said Radhakrishnan was unperturbed by Nair`s
Radhakrishnan has so far chosen not to react publicly to
Nair`s pungent attacks on him.
Speaking to a news agency Nair today indicated that the proposal to cancel the Antrix-Devas deal was initiated by Radhakrishnan.
"A letter went from DoS (Department of Space) to the
higher-ups towards the end of 2009 or early 2010 (when
Radhakrishnan was the Chairman), saying that for some reason
or other, the (Antrix-Devas) agreement has to be cancelled.
First proposal went from here (DoS)," he said.
This letter -- which indicates "deliberate action" (by
Radhakrishnan) -- triggered discussion, debate on "how and
why" of the contract.
"That means you (Radhakrishnan) make up your mind to take
action on something and then afterwards line up all arguments
in favour of such a decision. This is totally unheard of," he
On the deal, Nair said people are trying to mix up
spectrum vis-a-vis satellite transponder leasing.
"These are two different issues. ISRO deals with only
leasing of transponders," he said.
Nair said ISRO was supposed to give two transponders to
Devas which is not unusual as, for example, Tata Sky have
leased 12 (ISRO) transponders from one satellite completely
for their use.
Even if ISRO gave transponders to an operator, the latter
can`t start operations such as uplinking, downlinking and
beaming over the Indian continent till it got licence from the
Department of Telecom, Nair said.
As per his understanding, even in late 2009, Devas was
still trying to get DoT licence and no licence had been
granted at the time.
"The whole thing is not linked to spectrum usage or
anything, and the amount of what`s projected as Rs 20,000
crore etc is totally erroneous", he said.
"ISRO`s budget is hardly Rs 4,000 crore per year. If I
(ISRO) can get Rs 20,000 crore by supplying two transponders,
what`s the need for any government support for ISRO?", Nair
asked. "So, it`s totally an erroneous argument".
One should compare the cost of transponder with prices
prevailing in the international market, he contended.
"Trying to link up the whole deal as scam etc is ....it`s
based on wrong understanding of the issue," he said.