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Devas probe reports are one-sided, lacks facts: Ex-ISRO chief

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Published on: Sun, 05 Feb 2012 at 12:11 IST
Devas probe reports are one-sided, lacks facts: Ex-ISRO chief
Bangalore: The twin probe reports on the multi-billion dollar Antrix-Devas spectrum deal has been slammed by former Indian space agency chief G Madhavan Nair as he said that they were "one-sided and without all facts".

"Though I am yet to go through both the reports in detail, I can categorically say they are one-sided and not based on all facts. Let me first get the reports and study them. Then only I will be able to rebut and defend my position," Nair said.

Expressing surprise at the odd timing (late Saturday) of releasing the probe reports on the official websites of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the space department, Nair said a quick look at the salient points and conclusions arrived at clearly shows that the inquiry was not based on factual information and many things have been considered out of context.

"For instance, issues related to launch of satellites, leasing of transponders and spectrum pricing mechanism have not been dealt as per the rules and regulations," Nair said.

The probe reports have held Nair and three other space scientists responsible for serious irregularities and procedural lapses in signing the $300-million contract in 2005 to allot 70MHz of the scarce S-band spectrum (radio waves) to the Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia Services Ltd for digital services using ISRO's transponders.

The other three scientists are former scientific secretary A Bhaskarnarayana, ISRO's former satellite centre director KN Shankara and former Antrix Corporation executive director KR Sridharamurthi.

The INR 1,000-crore (INR 10-billion) Antrix is the commercial arm of the space agency, headquartered in this tech hub with centres across the country.

Though the first report of the two-member probe committee headed by former cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi and Space Commission member Roddam Narasimha was uploaded in full, the report of the five-member probe panel set up to study the former's report, has been partially released, with only the conclusions.

The prime minister, who is also incharge of the space department, had set up the Chatruvedi committee in February 2011 and the five-member panel in May 2011 under the chairmanship of Pratyush Sinha, former chairman of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), to study the former's recommendations to fix responsibility for the alleged violation of norms.

On the basis of the Sinha panel's recommendations, the government on January 13 debarred the four scientists from holding any government post or being on an any official committees.

On the recommendation of the Sinha committee, Nair said the panel had made the recommendations with little knowledge of space business.

"A committee headed by a former IPS (Indian Police Service) officer does not understand space business. Its conclusions are distorted. Its report too should have been released in full to ascertain the basis of its recommendations for action against us," Nair retorted.

Clarifying that the deal was not to solely benefit Devas, Nair said the contract was to ensure a decent return to the government even at the risk of using new technology at a time when India was still under the sanctions regime.

"When the deal was signed (in 2005), we were still under the embargo of the US and other western nations for the Pokhran-II nuclear test in May 1999. Only Devas came forward to provide a host of digital multimedia services using space-based radio waves. The government was also in favour of using space assets for the benefit of the country," Nair observed.
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