New Delhi/Bangalore: In a damning action,
government has barred former ISRO chief G Madhavan 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.
The action, probably the first of its kind against a
former Secretary-level technocrat and other retired officials,
follows a high-level inquiry into the controversial deal under
which Antrix was to lease out bulk transponders on two
satellites to Devas for launch of digital multimedia services.
68-year-old Nair, the architect of India`s maiden moon
mission Chandrayaan-I, hit back at the government accusing it
of "witch-hunting" and threatened to move court seeking
He also attacked the incumbent ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan
saying that he had misled the government on the issue.
The order by the Department of Space mandates that Nair
and three other top officials "shall be excluded from
re-employment, committee roles or any other important role
under the government."
"These four former officers shall be divested of any
current assignment/consultancy with the government with
immediate effect," said the order dated January 13.
Nair was the Chairman of three entities -- ISRO, Space
Commission and Antrix Corporation, and Secretary, Department
of Space. The other three officials against whom action has
been taken are A Bhaskaranarayana, former scientific secretary
at ISRO, K R Sridharamurthi, former managing director of
Antrix, ISRO`s commercial arm, and K N Shankara, former
director of the ISRO Satellite Centre.
Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy said the
decision to crack the whip was taken by the Prime Minister`s
Office which considered the report of a high-level panel on
the deal and recommendations on it by a team led by former CVC
Nair, a Padma Vibhushan awardee, said the government
action was "in violation of principles of natural justice and
tarnishing the image of reputed people like him."
With this order, the continuance of Nair as Chairman,
Board of Governors of IIT-Patna, has come under a cloud.
Bhaskaranarayana said he had done no wrong and felt
offended by the government action. He said the Antrix-Devas
deal was done with all due diligence and care.
Sridharamurthi also said that he had done nothing wrong
and probably "we will have to go through the process of
defending ourselves. We will do that."
"We are always ready to defend our actions. Lot of things
are not clearly seen," he said.
Soon after reports of a scam in the deal, Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh constituted a high-level committee under former
cabinet secretary B K Chaturvedi to go into the allegations.
The Cabinet Committee on Security had cancelled the deal in
February last year after these reports.
An angry Nair blamed his successor Radhakrishnan for the
action, accusing him of being behind the move and pursuing a
"personal agenda" by misleading the Government.
Dismissing his charge, Narayanasamy said Radhakrishnan
had nothing to do with him.
"Why is he blaming Radhakrishnan? The action was taken on
the basis of the findings of two Committees," he said.
Asked to comment on the matter, former President A P J
Abdul Kalam said there was no infighting. At the same time, he
said that definitely, the establishment was bigger than any
Under the deal, Antrix was to provide 70 MHz of the
scarce S-Band space segment to Devas for its digital
multimedia services. This was to be done by leasing 90 per
cent of the transponders in satellites GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A that
are proposed to be launched by ISRO. Devas, in turn, was to
pay Antrix a total of USD 300 million over 12 years.