2000yr old Thirukural

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ISRO’s new scam band complete story

2G scam ISRO, ISRO heads in 2g scam, 

ISRO’s new `satellite’ called `scam band’

Bangalore-based Indian Space Research Organisation, that is busy planning to send another satellite to the moon and take a shot at Mars, is now caught in an orbit of a scam that is of astronomical proposition.
In a season that has made scams highly infectious, the `virus' of scandals orbiting huge chunks of money has touched India's premier research organisation, once considered to be sanitised from the influence of politics or purse.
The latest scam involves ISRO's deal with a Bangalore-based company called Devas Multimedia Private Ltd. This company got the scarce S-band spectrum for 20 years for a pittance. The company, not surprisingly, is owned by M G Chandrasekhar, a former scientific secretary at ISRO. Deutsche Telekom is a minority equity stakeholder.
ISRO managed to hide the agreement entered into by the space agency's commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd and Devas for six long years until the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) smelt a rat and called for the files. The media then scooped it out into public space, forcing ISRO and the Prime Minister's Office scramble for an explanation.
The estimated loss, according to The Hindu which exposed the deal, is a whopping Rs 2 lakh crore!! By comparison, the presumptive loss incurred in the allocation of 2G spectrum by the DoT, as estimated by the CAG, is Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

The new S-band scam looks likely to explode on the face of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh just days before the crucial Budget session of Parliament. ISRO comes directly under the PM. Also coming under the scanner would be the present Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan who was the Union Minister for Science and Technology.
The S-band spectrum was allocated without inviting competitive bids and organisational control systems were thrown to the winds, in this case, into outer space. The Prime Minister's Office, the Cabinet, and the Space Commission were not kept in the loop or properly informed about the contract details, including the underestimation of ISRO's costs.
Globally, this frequency band has been put up for money-spinning auction and has fetched governments billions of dollars. The ISRO spectrum is critical for providing mobile broadband services using 4G technologies such as WiMax and Long-Term Evolution.
The S-band (political opponents of the Congress call it `scandal band') is a gold mine due to the 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.

The man at the centre of the scam, the then ISRO chief Madhavan Nair refused to comment when reporters asked about the scam in Thiruvananthapuram.
But late Monday night, ISRO put out a weak explanation saying: "The agreement entered into by Antrix and Devas on January 28, 2005 is already under review by the Department of Space and the government will take whatever steps necessary to safeguard public interest. A decision on the matter is likely to be taken soon."
The questions: Why did it take six years for ISRO to wake up? Had the media not exposed the deal, would it not have gone further, causing enormous loss? Why did ISRO keep quiet despite objections raised by the Union Cabinet.
What needs flagging here is that the Law Ministry had asked the Department of Space to nullify the deal between Antrix and Devas after the Department of Space had sought its view on the matter. Even the Space Commission in July 2010 had put its foot down and strongly objected to the deal. It went a step further recommending scrapping of the agreement between the two companies.

What is strange is that a Cabinet note had found something fishy and had asked ISRO to explain, but the space organisation sat over it and did not care to reply. This may have been deliberate, say sources.
According to the deal, ISRO was to launch two satellite developed by Devas Multimedia. In what looks like a trade-off, Devas was given access to 70 MHz of broadband spectrum in the 2500 MHz band.
Devas had also got trial spectrum from DoT claiming that it had developed a new technology. Sources say that the technology was not new and is in force in a few countries.
Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia is a start-up, founded in 2004, and headed by Dr. M.G. Chandrasekhar, former Scientific Secretary at ISRO. He was earlier Managing Director of the satellite radio company WorldSpace, which closed down in the face of stiff competition from FM radio services. The board of directors includes Kiran Karnik, a former President of Nasscom; Larry Babio, a former vice-chairman of Verizon, and Gary Parsons, a former Chairman of XM Sirius Satellite.

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