ISRO to terminate contract with Devas

As political attack mounted on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on yet another alleged spectrum scam, ISRO on Tuesday announced that the process to terminate a suspect deal was underway.

New Delhi: As political attack mounted on
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on yet another alleged spectrum
scam, ISRO on Tuesday announced that the process to terminate a
suspect deal was underway.

The space agency claimed there was no financial loss to
the government on account of the 2005 contract between its
commercial arm Antrix and Devas Multimedia, floated by a
former ISRO official for use of scarce S-band spectrum.
However, at a late evening press conference, ISRO chief K
Radhakrishnan admitted that details about contract that gave
Devas rights to 90 per cent usage of transponders on two
satellites, were not shared with the Space Commission or the
Union Cabinet.

"One point that was not explicitly mentioned (to the
Union Cabinet) was that GSAT 6 and GSAT 6A satellites are
going to be predominantly used for this novel and commercial
application that Antrix had entered into with M/s Devas," he
said.

The ISRO press conference came on top of a denial by the
Prime Minister`s Office (PMO) of media reports claiming that a
Devas has been allotted 70 MHz of spectrum for Rs 1000 crore.

It said no decision has been taken and hence charges of
revenue loss of a whopping Rs.two lakh crore were without any
basis.

But the BJP was not convinced by the PMO clarification
dubbing it as meaningless.

The party said there were important questions which the
Prime Minister must explain to the nation.

"It is self evident that Manmohan Singh is leading a
regime that is the most corrupt after independence...yet it is
claimed that he is Mr.Clean," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar
Prasad said.

In the wake of media reports that the deal could cause a
loss of over Rs two lakh crore, the ISRO chief clarified that
neither spectrum nor transponders or satellites were given to
Devas or Antrix so far.
"The question of revenue loss incurred does not arise,"
said Radhakrishnan, who was accompanied by former ISRO chief
and Member, Planning Commission K Kasturirangan.

He said the process of review of the contract was
initiated in December 8, 2009 and soon "we are expecting it to
complete it."

"In December 2009, I instituted a committee with a former
member of Space Commission for a comprehensive review of all
matters," he said explaining the genesis of the process of
review.

To a question whether the Prime Minister was aware of the
deal, he said the contract is finalised by the Antrix Board
and he had taken up the matter to the Space Commission.

"After the decision, I broached the matter with the Prime
Minister, who is our Minister incharge and that is how the PMO
conveyed a press note on the issue today," he said.

At this point Kasturirangan interjected to point out that
the review process was proof of the robustness of the decision
making system.

Radhakrishnan said no time was wasted and there was no
dilly-dallying. "We have come to taking a decision but the
review process is very complex and that is what we are going
through because we have to ensure that the government does not
incur loss or suffer damage".

Explaining the review process, Radhakrishnan said the
contract was reviewed from all angles and it was felt that the
Space Commission. The Law Ministry was also being consulted on
the termination process.

To a question whether ISRO officials were aware of the
fact Devas was to get a predominant share of transponders on
GSAT 6 and GSAT 6A, he said it was an internal matter and
necessary action will be taken.

He said some of the members of the Antrix Board may have
been aware of the Devas connection.

Asked why there was no competitive bidding for the deal,
Radhakrishnan said this was a case of new service in 2003 and
there was nobody there having such technology.

Kasturirangan said the new technology was developed by
Devas as part of an international consortium which comprised
the best among peers.

"As of now, we have the contract. It has not been
terminated. The process to terminate is on. The decision to
terminated was taken in July 2010. We are in the process of
doing it," Radhakrishnan said.

The decision to terminate the contract was taken as the
spectrum was required for national strategic purpose. It has
been done in the interest of the government and the public, he
said.

PTI