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How S-Band Landed At PM’s Door
Did the PMO knowingly push the deal and then back out?
The PMO insists it got to know about the deal in July 2010, and then supported moves to annul it.
It definitely knows.If it denies it is not governing at all.
There’s no loss to the exchequer yet. So why is the PMO on the defensive?
Space is part of the PM’s beat, leaving him vulnerable. Also, Devas’s untested technology was causing disquiet as it could potentially affect future plans of existing telcos.
Nobody expected this to Blow up.
Even so, why did the PM need to clarify?
His personal integrity is coming under attack. Spotlight on 2G spectrum scam—and the proximity to the PM—worked against the deal. The PM had to clear the air.
So, is this a scam?
Doesn’t seem to be one. The Antrix-Devas contract is legal and procedures were followed when it was signed in January ’05.
Perfectly legal.Antrix lost the Bribe it has paid as well.
Why then was it cancelled?
The government is yet to give a concrete reason beyond “national needs” and “country’s strategic requirements”.
National needs is somebody’s needs.
Is there nothing wrong in ISRO’s dealings with Devas?
Some experts say the deal was loaded in Devas’s favour, with easy payment terms and a hedge against market risk. But then, there were no takers for S-band when the contract was signed.
Yes.Some made money and the Scientist honchos walked in blindfolded.
Yes, of course, Devas will go to the courts. The government will have to change the Satcom policy and compensate.
Is the PM safe?
As long as no clear link emerges between his office and the deal.
Perfectly, irrespective of who comes to power.
ISRO claims to have ordered a review in 2009. Around this time, media reports about irregularities in the deal had surfaced. Yet, Antrix continued its talks with Devas on the project till a few weeks ago. “We were in talks with Antrix for hiring a third-country launch vehicle for the satellites till the third week of January,” Devas president & CEO Ramachandran Vishwanathan told Outlook. There are other apparent contradictions. While there are reports that the Space Commission and the Department of Space were kept in the dark, Antrix executive director K.R. Sridhara Murthi wrote to the Devas CEO in February 2, 2006, stating that it had “received the necessary approval for building, launching and leasing the capacity of S-band satellite….” A copy of the letter is withOutlook. Obviously, the approval would have come either from ISRO or the Space Commission or both.
So, what could have suddenly made the prime minister so vulnerable that he had to take defensive action, namely, the press conference? “Things have changed. All of a sudden, you find there are many takers and S-band is more valuable than ever thought,” say PMO sources. Indeed, Devas’s planned services could yield some answers. “Devas’s service through a satellite transponder would have been competitive with 4G. It could have been game-changer for the sector,” says Dinayar Contractor, a cable and satellite expert. This was seen as a potential spoiler for operators who have spent thousands of crores of rupees for 3G and BWA/LTE spectrum.
With India still in the pre-consultation stage for 4G services, Devas’s service could actually supersede many levels and render many of the existing companies’ investments redundant. Currently, a portion of S-band spectrum is being used for 4G terrestrial cellular services in some countries. “This could potentially happen in India as well, but not anytime soon. Widespread 4G services should be preceded by full-fledged 3G services, which is still in a nascent stage in India,” says a source close to ISRO.
**Portions in Bold Italics are my comments.