M A I N   N E W S

ISRO reports indict Nair, 3 others
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 5
Two reports, one of them partial, posted in the public domain by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), have indicted its former chairman Madhavan Nair and three other scientists of “administrative and procedural lapses” and for striking a deal with private firm Devas Multimedia that was weighed against the organisation.

The reports also allege the possibility of “collusive” behaviour by the scientists, one of whom, A Bhaskaranarayana, was said to have accepted the hospitality of the private firm during one of his visits to the United States.

The Antrix-Devas deal signed in January 2005 required ISRO to launch and manage two satellites at an estimated cost of Rs 800 crore. But 90% of the transponder capacity was given away to Devas, allegedly ignoring defence requirements. The organisation also agreed to launch the satellites within 36 months, failing which it agreed to pay a hefty penalty. The deal was annulled in 2010 and inquiries initiated.

The reports, put on the ISRO website late Saturday evening, accuse Nair of keeping the Union Cabinet and the Department of Space in the dark about the deal. The ISRO chief is, ironically, also the Secretary, Department of Space.

While 51 pages of the first report posted on the ISRO website was described by ISRO as the “full text of the report”, only 10 pages of the second report containing “conclusions and recommendations” made by the five-member committee headed by former Chief Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha were made available on the website.

The first report submitted on March 12, 2011 by the two-member committee consisting of eminent aerospace scientist Professor Roddam Narasimhan, and Planning Commission member and former Cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi exonerated officials of ISRO and Antrix (ISRO’s commercial arm) from causing any financial loss to the government. The second committee set up by the government in May last year was less charitable.

As a result of recommendations made by the Sinha committee, Nair, former Antrix MD K Sridharamurthi, ISRO former scientific secretary A Bhaskarnarayana, and former director of ISRO satellite centre KN Shankara, have been banned from holding any position in the government.

A damning part of the report submitted by the committee headed by former CVC Pratyush Sinha goes into financial details of the private firm. It points out that the majority stake in the firm is now held by foreign companies based in Germany and Mauritius and that the company collected a share premium of Rs 578 crore, although the promoters had not invested more than Rs 18 lakh themselves. For a company with no asset base, no IPR and no patent, the report said, this was unusual and recommended investigation by an appropriate agency.

Riled at the report, Madhavan Nair said it was “one-sided” and “full of inconsistencies and inaccuracies”. Nair, who had last month dared ISRO to come out with the findings of the probe committees, accused the present ISRO chief of “cowardice” for not posting the entire report of the committee headed by the former CVC. Unless the full reports were made available along with annexures, he suggested, it would be difficult for him and his colleagues to respond.

While Nair had complained last month that the government had given him and other scientists no chance to explain, a statement posted by ISRO on its site now claims that Nair was given a hearing by Pratyush Sinha in New Delhi and that Nair had followed it up with a letter to the PM.

But Nair today claimed that he had to ‘gatecrash’ in order to meet the former CVC and that if the ISRO meant business, it should have served a proper chargesheet and demanded a response from them. The indicted scientists also pointed to the two-member committee, comprising former Cabinet Secretary BK Chaturvedi and eminent scientist Roddam Narasimhan, as stating that the Antrix-Devas deal could not have resulted in a financial loss.

Discounting the reported observation by the CAG that the deal caused a loss of Rs 2 lakh crore to the government, the Narasimhan-Chaturvedi report said, “Concerns on cheap selling of spectrum to Devas have no basis whatsoever. Space spectrum is not comparable to terrestrial spectrum. Devas was also required to obtain license from DoT/I&B for providing services to customers and would have to pay, apart from transponder leasing charges, other charges which would be determined by the TRAI.”





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | E-mail |