Govt stares at another suspected spectrum scam, bigger than 2G

Government faces another suspected scam concerning a deal between ISRO and a private company, which could cost the exchequer Rs 2 lakh crore.

Last Updated: Feb 08, 2011, 00:35 AM IST

New Delhi: Government was on Monday faced with
another suspected scam which can cost the exchequer upto Rs
two lakh crore concerning a deal between ISRO and a private
company and in a quick response it was announced that the pact
was under review.

After a news report this morning that ISRO`s commercial
arm -- Antrix Corporation -- has entered into a deal with
Devas Multimedia Services that allegedly confers unbridled use
of 70 MHz of scarce S-band spectrum over a 20 year-period, the
Department of Space came out with a late night statement.

"The Department (of Space) wishes to clarify that the
Agreement entered into by Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO,
and M/s. Devas on January 28, 2005 is already under review by
the DoS and the government will take whatever steps are
necessary to safeguard public interest. A decision on the
matter is likely to be taken soon," it said.
Devas is owned by M G Chandrasekhar, former Scientific
Secretary, ISRO.

The DoS statement climaxed a day of strong attacks by
opposition parties which targetted the government and demanded
a clarification from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The DoS
comes directly under the Prime Minister.

Earlier in the day, the Comptroller and Auditor General
(CAG) said its attention has been drawn to reports appearing
in media regarding audit being undertaken by Audit and
Accounts Department of DoS. The report said according to
preliminary estimates by CAG this spectrum "largesse" to a
private party could cost the exchequer in excess of Rs two
lakh crore.
"The news item gives the impression as if our audit has
been finalised. This office clarifies that audit of certain
activities of DoS is under way.

"Very preliminary queries have been raised which are yet
to be replied by that department. Since the audit is at very
preliminary stage, it can by no stretch of imagination, be
concluded that information as given in the media reports are
findings of this department," the CAG statement said.

Reacting to the media report, political parties attacked
the government saying the matter was "very serious" and
demanded a thorough probe into the "new scam".

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters at the
party briefing that the this was a "very serious scandal as it
involves a very unique and rare spectrum. The Department of
Space is directly under the Prime Minister. He should
immediately clarify his stand on the whole issue".

"We demand a comprehensive inquiry to establish the
criminality in the whole matter. We also demand recovery
of the lost revenue," she said.

Left parties said the news reports pointed towards a "new
scam" and demanded a "thorough probe" into the matter.

"This is a new issue. The ISRO is under the Department of
Space which is under Prime Minister. This is also a new scam,"
CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said.

CPI National Secretary D Raja said the new revelations
were "very serious", a view echoed by senior RSP leader Abani
Roy who demanded that the matter be brought under the JPC into
2G spectrum allocations.

Congress refused to comment on the merit of the case
saying it was for Parliament`s Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
to examine any matter that causes a loss to the exchequer.

"There is a standard procedure. Whenever the CAG finds
something that has caused loss to the government, it
automatically goes to the PAC. I hope this matter also goes to
the PAC," Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.