BJP challenges PM on ISRO agreement


New Delhi : Stepping up the attack on the government over the ISRO S-band allocation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tuesday sought answers from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the matter, alleging that the issue was shrouded in mystery.

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BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), entered into an agreement with Devas Multimedia in 2005 under which it agreed to launch two satellites and gave the company a large benefit of unbridled use of 70MHz of scarce S-band (radio waves used for satellite communication) over a 20-year period for broadband services including mobile telephony.

“This national resource was given to a private company for a meagre Rs.1,000 crore without auction or determination of reasonable price whereas the government last year earned Rs.67,719 crore by auctioning 15 MHz of similar airwaves for 3G mobile services and Rs.38,000 crore by auctioning spectrum for broadband wireless access services,” he alleged.

Posing questions to the prime minister, who oversees the space ministry, Prasad asked if the government gave ISRO permission to allocate the S-band spectrum to a private company for its use.

“ISRO comes directly under the prime minister. Was an approval sought and was it given and if so on what terms and conditions,” he said.

Prasad asked if the 2005 agreement between ISRO and Devas Multimedia was approved by the government and if the authorities insisted on public auction of valuable 70 MHz spectrum

The BJP leader said he had learnt that the space commission took a decision to terminate the agreement in July 2010.

“Why did it take five years to do so? What was the then minister of state in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Prithviraj Chavan, doing for five years when such massive irregularities and corruption was staring in the face of the government,” he asked.

Prasad said that the government should explain why the decision to terminate the agreement was not being implemented.

“Whose is the hidden hand which is preventing an immediate review of the decision,” he said.

Noting that the chairman of Devas Multimedia was M.G. Chandrashekhar, a former scientific secretary in ISRO, he wondered how an ex-official was allowed to do business with the space organisation.

“Devas Multimedia has publicly claimed that they have not received any communication from ISRO about the contract. If so, then what review of the entire agreement is being undertaken as claimed by ISRO? Why everything is shrouded in mystery,” he asked.

Demanding a prompt inquiry into all dimensions of “the latest scam,” Prasad said that it had come after scams relating to the Commonwealth Games, the 2G Spectrum allocation, the Adarsh cooperative society and the controversy relating to appointment of the central vigilance commissioner.

“Manmohan Singh presides over an empire of corruption and scams causing heavy loss to public money, its image being one of the most corrupt administration since independence and yet it is claimed that he is Mr. Clean,” Prasad said.

The BJP had said Monday that the S-band deal could have caused the nation an estimated loss of Rs.2 lakh crore, according to preliminary estimates by the comptroller and auditor general.

The BJP tirade Tuesday came even as the PMO said the government has not taken any decision on the spectrum allocation of radio waves used for satellite communication.