Sunday, February 13, 2011

That's all, Your Honour! : Feb.6-12

1. When the Rs. 17,60,00,00,00,000/- (if you are confused with the number of zeroes, it is Rs. 1,76,000 crores!) 2G spectrum broke out, one would have expected that it will take ages for another scam to beat this figure. Surpassing all our expectations, a potential Rs. 20,00,00,00,00,000/- (Two lakh crores!) was exposed this week! In 2005, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) entered into a commercial contract with a private company called Devas Multimedia. This company is headed by a former special secretary of ISRO, and consists of many former officials of ISRO. According to this contract, ISRO will build two satellites which will be used by Devas Multimedia for offering many multimedia services in our country. Devas will be paying Rs. 1000 crore for these two satellites. So far, so good. These two satellites will have 10 transponders which will need about 70MHz of the S-band waves. What does 70MHz mean in terms of money? Here's how one can estimate roughly. In the recent auctions , 15MHz of this band was auctioned for Rs. 67,000 crores! Just imagine how much 70MHz would have fetched! And what did ISRO agree for? Rs. 1000 crore! ISRO functions under the Department of Space, which is directly under the Prime Minister. ISRO is supposed to get Cabinet approvals for such deals. So it is fair enough for us to assume that the Cabinet also knew about this deal.

Here's where you are stumped again. ISRO chairman comes before the Press and tells us that ISRO did not inform the Cabinet that these two satellites are meant for Devas Multimedia! And he says there will be an investigation as to why this information was suppressed! The next question that comes to mind is this - no one in the Cabinet had any questions on what these satellites will be accomplishing? Isn't ISRO supposed to furnish all those details in its report? If it did not, shouldn't someone be asking for more details? How can 70MHz of S-Band be given away and the top echelons not know about it? Is this another attempt to isolate the Prime Minister from any wrong doing? That he is honest, and knows nothing about this deal?

The loud mouthed Kapil Sibal comes out and tells that the Department of Telecom objected to this deal in 2007. ISRO says Cabinet and the Prime Minister did not know about this. Space Commission (headed by the ISRO Chief, with the National Security Advisor as one of its members) recommeded cancellation of the deal in July 2010. Devas says that till atleast a month back, talks were still on, on various aspects. First the PMO even denied that any spectrum was alloted. When The Hindu refuted this claim saying allotment of transponders amounts to allocating spectrum, the PMO went silent, saying a commission was being constituted. Who's heading this commission? B.K.Chaturvedi, the Cabinet Secretary when this deal was finalised!!

They are now saying this deal is headed towards annulment, thereby wanting the people to believe that prompt action is being taken as soon as they knew about this stuff. That this deal went unchallenged for a full 5 years is a blot. That the top echelons of ISRO were involved in this is a bigger blot. That the Prime Minister, as always, has chosen to remain silent on this loss is biggest blot on our democracy.

The S-Band scam was exposed by The Business Line and The Hindu. Please follow The Hindu paper from February 7th to February 13, 2011 (you can access their archives at Their coverage has been top class.

And please don't forget the figure- a total of upto Rs. 37,60,00,00,00,000/- losses so far (only from the specturm scam, we are not even talking about the other "minor" scams). That's all, your honour!


IG said...

thnks informative

Unknown said...

"Loud-mouth" is an apt adjective to describe Kapil Sibal - everytime the name is mentioned, the adjective must precede it. Thank you.

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