Review panel on ISRO deal a cover-up: BJP (Lead)

February 10th, 2011 - 9:05 pm ICT by IANS  

ISRO New Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) The BJP Thursday objected to the composition of a panel by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to review the agreement between ISRO’s commercial arm and a private company relating to the lease of high value and scarce S-band radio waves and said the government was attempting a “cover-up”.Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman raised questions over terms of reference of the panel, saying it should look into aspects of ownership and funding of Devas Multimedia Pvt. Ltd which had entered into an agreement with Antrix, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in 2005.

Sitharaman said that planning commission member B.K. Chaturvedi, who is in the two member panel announced by the prime minister, was the cabinet secretary when the controversial agreement was approved.

“If a decision has to be investigated, can it be done by the same person who was part of the decision making process. It defeats the whole purpose of the exercise,” she said.

The two-member panel will review the technical, commercial, procedural and financial aspects of the agreement between Antrix and Devas Multimedia Pvt. Ltd. The other member of the committee is Space Commission member and aerospace expert Roddam Narasimha.

Sitharaman said the composition of the panel suggested that the government was trying to cover up its lapses.

“This is cover up. This is not acceptable,” she said.

Sitharaman said the panel should look into “aspects of ownership, routes of funding, opening of S-band to private sector operators and if there was a procedure to be followed”.

“These are pertinent questions that come to mind as you look at the agreement. How the oversight mechanism did not look at these issues between 2005 and 2010, when a decision was taken to annul the agreement,” she said

Sitharaman said that the company had considerable foreign holding when it was formed and within a year it off-loaded its shares to a Singapore-based German company.

“The ownership was of Devas but the ultimate holding was of a foreign company,” Sitharaman alleged.

Demanding a comprehensive inquiry, she said CC/Devas (Mauritius) Ltd and Telecom Devas Mauritius Ltd were issued 15,730 convertible cumulative preferential shares each on March 16, 2006 at a huge premium of Rs.21,445.82 for the shares with equity value of Rs.10 each, only few months after the company got the scarce spectrum.

She also said that Devas off-loaded its 36,749 shares worth $75 million to Singapore-based Deutsche Telekom Asia Pte Ltd in a short span.

She said that if the agreement had indeed been operationalised, it was possible that ISRO would have required approval from Devas to meet growing demand for S-band spectrum.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has indicated that the alleged deal between Antrix and Devas has caused the nation an estimated loss of Rs.2 lakh crore.

The government Tuesday denied that the nation suffered revenue losses in the allocation of space spectrum using S-band but admitted that the agreement between Antrix and Devas had not explicitly mentioned the end-use terms. Further, it said the agreement was being cancelled.

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