ISRO Spectrum Scam
Government was faced with another suspected scam which can cost the exchequer upto Rs two lakh crore concerning a deal between ISRO and a private company and in a quick response it was announced that the pact was under review.
After a news report this morning that ISRO's commercial arm -- Antrix Corporation -- has entered into a deal with Devas Multimedia Services that allegedly confers unbridled use of 70 MHz of scarce S-band spectrum over a 20 year-period, the Department of Space came out with a late night statement.
"The Department (of Space) wishes to clarify that the Agreement entered into by Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, and M/s. Devas on January 28, 2005 is already under review by the DoS and the government will take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard public interest. A decision on the matter is likely to be taken soon," it said.
Devas is owned by M G Chandrasekhar, former Scientific Secretary, ISRO.
The DoS statement climaxed a day of strong attacks by opposition parties which targetted the government and demanded a clarification from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The DoS comes directly under the Prime Minister.
Earlier in the day, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said its attention has been drawn to reports appearing in media regarding audit being undertaken by Audit and Accounts Department of DoS. The report said according to preliminary estimates by CAG this spectrum "largesse" to a private party could cost the exchequer in excess of Rs two lakh crore.
"The news item gives the impression as if our audit has been finalised. This office clarifies that audit of certain activities of DoS is under way. Very preliminary queries have been raised which are yet to be replied by that department. Since the audit is at very preliminary stage, it can by no stretch of imagination, be concluded that information as given in the media reports are findings of this department," the CAG statement said.
Reacting to the media report, political parties attacked the government saying the matter was "very serious" and demanded a thorough probe into the "new scam".
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters at the party briefing that the this was a "very serious scandal as it involves a very unique and rare spectrum. The Department of Space is directly under the Prime Minister. He should immediately clarify his stand on the whole issue".
"We demand a comprehensive inquiry to establish the criminality in the whole matter. We also demand recovery of the lost revenue," she said.
Left parties said the news reports pointed towards a "new scam" and demanded a "thorough probe" into the matter.
"This is a new issue. The ISRO is under the Department of Space which is under Prime Minister. This is also a new scam," CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said.
CPI National Secretary D Raja said the new revelations were "very serious", a view echoed by senior RSP leader Abani Roy who demanded that the matter be brought under the JPC into 2G spectrum allocations.
Congress refused to comment on the merit of the case saying it was for Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to examine any matter that causes a loss to the exchequer.
"There is a standard procedure. Whenever the CAG finds something that has caused loss to the government, it automatically goes to the PAC. I hope this matter also goes to the PAC," Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.
After 2G, Isro’s S-band scam rattles Govt
February 08, 2011 1:15:03 AM
PNS | New Delhi
Worth Rs 2 lakh cr, latest racket leads straight to PM
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday found himself in the line of Opposition’s fire as a new ‘spectrum scam’ threatened to create fresh trouble for the embattled UPA Government.
The target has shifted from former Telecom Minister A Raja to the Prime Minister following a news report quoting the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India’s preliminary findings that the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) — under the Department of Space which is headed by Manmohan Singh — allotted huge spectrum to a private operator, Devas Multimedia, at throwaway prices without going through any bidding process. Devas is owned by MG Chandrasekhar, a former scientific secretary at Isro.
Pegging the State exchequer’s loss to the tune of `2 lakh crore, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has asked Singh to clarify his stand on this deal. “Recently, BSNL and MTNL were allotted only 20 MHz for `12,487 crore. But for allocation of 70 MHz to this private operator, the Government is charging only `1,000 crore,” BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told newspersons here on Monday.
The BJP also demanded that the agreement be nullified, spectrum recovered and a comprehensive inquiry conducted to establish criminality. “This whole affair is vitiated by fraud… As a result, this country is facing not only loss of revenue but frittering away valuable national asset,” Sitharaman added.
Terming the revelations “very serious”, the Left parties demanded a thorough investigation into the “new scam”. CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said, “This is a new issue. The Isro is under the Department of Space, which is under the (charge of) Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh). This is a new scam.”
CPI national secretary D Raja said the new revelations were “very serious”, a view echoed by senior RSP leader Abani Roy, who demanded a JPC into the matter.
Meanwhile, the BJP also questioned the manner in which the spectrum was allocated without bringing the issue into the public domain. “This is the first time that the allocation for this band has taken place. It is a very unique band which relates to a very high MHz frequency. And this allocation was made very quietly, without any public auction or bringing it in public domain and given to a private operator,” Sitharaman said.
The BJP leader pointed out that only 190 MHz of S-band was available. Of this, 150 MHz is with the Department of Space, of which 70 MHz was allotted to Devas Multimedia.
Drawing a comparison between values of different spectrum, Sitharaman said, “The 2G spectrum is much inferior. But 2G spectrum related to only 4.4 MHz. CAG said the loss was `1.76 lakh crore. The 3G is 50 MHz. Here due to pressure from the media and public, it went for auction. And the Government’s earning in this case was `67,719 crore,” Sitharaman said.
Meanwhile, ISRO sought to clarify that the matter was being reviewed by the Department of Space and a decision in the matter was likely to be taken soon. “The CAG has already clarified in a statement on Monday that the audit of the Department of Space is under way and that only preliminary queries have been raised on the matter. These will be replied to by the Department of Space,” Isro stated on Monday.
“However,” it added, “The department wishes to clarify that the agreement entered into by Antrix, the commercial arm of Isro, and Devas on January 28, 2005, is already under review by the Department of Space … The Government will take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard public interest. A decision on the matter is likely to be taken soon.”