Murmurs of witch-hunt as Devas reports released



Chennai: With ISRO making public only parts of two reports into the controversial Antrix-Devas deal, murmurs of witch-hunt against the four retired scientists is gaining ground.

The ISRO uploaded on its website only the conclusions and recommendations of a report by a five-member panel led by former CVC Pratyush Sinha and Volume 1 of a two-member committee of BK Chaturvedi and Roddam Narasimha. ISRO also uploaded a statement on both the committees and the follow up action on their recommendations.

Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman K. Radhakrishnan had recently announced that the reports of the two committees would be made public. But the government approved release of some portions.

"We have released what has been approved by the government. The government has to decide on making public the remaining portions," ISRO director (publications and public relations) S. Satish said.

Some portions of the Chaturvedi-Narasimha panel have been withheld under Section 8 (1) (a) of Right to Information Act 2005.

The release of only some portions has led to speculation among scientists that a witch-hunt is on against the four former scientists, including retired ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair.

Nair was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1998 and Padma Vibhushan in 2009.

According to ISRO officials, Nair is a go getter. And it may be true that there have been procedural lapses in concluding the Devas deal.

"As to the procedural lapses, all I have to say is that we had followed the earlier practise and nothing new was followed," A. Bhaskaranarayana, a former scientific secretary at ISRO, said.

Bhaskaranarayana is one of the four space scientists blacklisted from any government job or membership in a government committee.

The three others are Nair, K.R. Sridharamurthi, former executive director of Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, and K.N. Shankara, a former director of the ISRO satellite centre.

ISRO officials said on the condition of anonymity that the action against the four space scientists was due to a combination of procedural lapse in concluding the Devas deal and vindictive action.

Nair was not available for comments.

As per the deal, Antrix was to provide 70 MHz S-Band spectrum to Devas, which is into multimedia services. Antrix would provide the spectrum by leasing out transponders of two satellites to be built mainly for Devas.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimated the loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs.2 lakh crore because of the deal. The government later scrapped the deal.

IANS