S-band deal: Ex-ISRO chief barred from govt jobs
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Last Updated: Thursday, January 26, 2012, 00:54
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 relief.

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 Pratyush Sinha.

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 individual.

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.


First Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 10:11

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