Thursday, February 17, 2011

ISRO Communication Satellite,Defence minister not told about Devas deal, Cabinet Scraps Agreement

New Delhi: The government on Thursday moved swiftly to scrap the hugely controversial S-band spectrum deal inked between Isro’s commercial arm Antrix and private firm Devas Multimedia, which among the different scandals haunting the UPA government has cast a dark shadow directly on the PMO. 
   The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), at a meeting chaired by PM Manmohan Singh, decided to annul the January 2005 contract, under which 90% of transponders on two of Isro’s yet-to-belaunched geostationary satellites GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A were to be leased to Devas for a mere Rs 1,350 crore spread over 12 years. Dubbing the contract a “mistake” committed by Isro, which the government had now “corrected” by “taking a drastic step”, defence minister A K Antony said it was “unfortunate” that the defence establishment “was not consulted” when the deal was being finalised.
   “S-band is mainly for the strategic forces, and in which Army, Navy and IAF have a major stake. Its availability is limited... a very precious asset for us,” Antony said. “The government is now conscious of the necessity of giving the required capability to armed forces, paramilitary and other strategic organisations... I am confident their concerns will be addressed,” he added.
   This, once again, buttresses the point that the armed forces are often kept out of the loop even on issues with far-reaching strategic and security implications. Reacting to the cancellation, Devas said in a statement, “We are still awaiting a formal communication from the government on the status of our contract. Once we get this information, we will be in a position to comment”.
   Law minister Veerappa Moily said the points raised by Antony could be a “subject matter” before the B K Chaturvedi committee set up by the PM to look into the entire issue.
   As for the contract itself, Moily said when the question of strategic requirements arose, the government could not give S-band spectrum even to Antrix for commercial use.
   This comes a day after the PM, while holding that the deal had never been operationalised, rejected suggestions that there were backroom negotiations between Devas representatives and PMO — which directly oversees the department of space (DoS) — over the last several weeks after the space commission recommended scrapping of the deal.

Waiting for government word, says Devas
Late Thursday evening, Devas said it was yet to receive a communique on the cancellation. “We are still awaiting a for?mal communication from the government on the status of our contract. Once we get this information, we will be in a position to com?ment,” a statement said.

Isro deal a mistake, govt corrected it: Antony

New Delhi: Terming the controversial S-band spectrum deal between the Indian space agency’s commercial arm Antrix and private firm Devas a “mistake,” defence minister AK Antony on Thursday blamed Isro for the contract and said the government had corrected it by cancelling the pact.
   Asserting that the government’s hands were clean and it had nothing to hide or fear on the S-band deal, Antony told reporters here that the government had now taken a drastic step and that showed it was very serious on the matter.
   The deal, finalised in 2005 without any competitive bidding, was under review for the past many days by the government and the space department before it was annulled Thursday.
   “They (Isro) have done some mistake, the government corrected it. That too after studying it and taking a drastic step. That shows the government is very serious. The government has nothing to hide...nothing to fear. Our hands are very clean,” Antony said, shortly after the government scrapped the deal on the allocation of S-band spectrum, high value and scarce radio waves.
   Noting that the Antrix-Devas deal was “unfortunate,” Antony rued that the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) had not consulted his ministry before signing the deal with Devas five years ago.
   “It was unfortunate. Earlier, we (the defence ministry) were not consulted by whoever took the decision at that time. All aspects are now being inquired into,” he said on the deal that triggered a major controversy. IANS

Scrapping deal too little, too late: Oppn
New Delhi: Opposition parties have termed Thursday's cabinet decision to cancel a contract allocating scarce and high-value S-band spectrum to a private company as "too little, too late" and one which raises more questions, while Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Murli Manohar Joshi indicated the parliamentary panel could probe the matter. IANS 

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