ISRO agreement to be annulled, no mention of end-use terms (Roundup)

February 8th, 2011 - 11:42 pm ICT by IANS  

ISRO New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) The government Tuesday denied that the nation suffered revenue losses in the allocation of space spectrum using S-band - high value and scarce radio waves - but admitted that an agreement between the Indian Space Research Organisation’s commercial arm and a private company was being cancelled as it had not explicitly mentioned the end-use terms.The government’s denial came as the opposition upped its ante over the issue that brings Prime Minister Manmohan Singh under the scanner as the space department portfolio is looked after by him.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) stated that it had seen media reports alleging loss of government revenue in a contract entered into by Antrix Corporation (the commercial arm of ISRO) and Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd due to lease of space segment capacity which would use S-Band spectrum.

“The (Comptroller and Auditor General) CAG’s office and Department of Space have already issued statements stating the factual position. It is clarified that no decision has been taken by the government to allocate space segment using S-Band spectrum to Antrix or Devas. The question of revenue loss does not arise,” the statement said.

Reports quoting the findings of the CAG indicated that an alleged deal between Antrix and Devas has caused the nation an estimated loss of Rs.2 lakh crore.

The CAG is probing the agreement between Antrix and Devas, according to which Devas was allegedly given the high-value bandwidth at throwaway prices without competitive bidding by the ISRO.

The PMO said: “Any such reports are without basis in fact.”

The space department said the government had already put in motion the process of cancelling the agreement between Antrix and the Devas because it had not explicitly mentioned the end-use terms.

Addressing media persons here, Secretary (Space) K. Radhakrishnan and Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan said that a decision had been taken to annul the agreement.

Radhakrishnan said that the agreement, which had been approved by the Antrix Corporation board in 2005, entailed the launch of two satellites.

“In December 2009, the Department of Space decided to review the Antrix-Devas agreement and see how to meet the emerging strategic requirements of the country,” he said.

He said that the review process was carried out and the matter was subsequently taken up with the Space Commission.

He said that the agreement did not explicitly mention that 90 percent of the capacity of the two satellites will be given to the contracting party and “the remaining will be used for our own purposes.”

“Ideally, we should have mentioned. This is a question we have addressed ourselves,” he said.

The statement comes amid a fresh political controversy with the BJP and the Left parties demanding a probe into the reported CAG estimate of losses.

The BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad, hitting out at the government, said: “Spectrum is a national asset and when they are given to an organisation like ISRO, they are trustees for the spectrum and they cannot alienate it by transfer or lease in any other way.”

Stepping up his attack, he said: “Manmohan Singh presides over an empire of corruption and scams causing heavy loss to public money, its image being one of the most corrupt administration since independence and yet it is claimed that he is Mr. Clean.”

As per the deal under the scanner, Devas was to get unbridled access to 70 MHz - megahertz, units of frequency - of the scarce S-band spectrum over a 20-year period.

This spectrum was once used by state-owned Doordarshan for satellite transmission to all parts of the country.

It is now considered to be of enormous commercial value for high-speed, terrestrial mobile communications.

In 2010, the union government got nearly Rs.67,719 crore from the auction of just 15 Mhz of similar airwaves for 3G mobile services.

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