मंगलवार, 8 फ़रवरी 2011

S-Band spectrum scam : Prime Minister Department India govt hit a new telecom scandals




S-Band spectrum row: ISRO deal under review, says govtडेली भास्कर.इन New Delhi: Close on the heels of the 2G scam, ‘revelations’ of another spectrum scam have put the Centre under further pressure. The new row revolves around the manner in which spectrum for S-Band frequencies was allocated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Relying on a newspaper report, the BJP, cornering the government over the issue, has demanded a probe from the Prime Minister on the sale of S-Band spectrum without competitive bids to private companies. The loss to the exchequer is close to Rs 2 lakh crore, the party claimed at a press conference on Monday.
Meanwhile, reacting to the issue, the Department of Space has come out with a clarification that the pact between ISRO and Devas Multimedia was already under review and the department will take all necessary steps to safeguard people’s interests.
According to a report in The Hindu, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) suspects a scandal bigger than 2G in the allocation of S-band spectrum. The CAG has found that the deal was made without bids being invited, following which the Department of Space and ISRO are under the scanner, the report says.
"The Department (of Space) wishes to clarify that the Agreement entered into by Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, and M/s. Devas on January 28, 2005 is already under review by the DoS and the government will take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard public interest. A decision on the matter is likely to be taken soon," the DoS said in a statement.
The party has alleged that the S-Band scam is bigger than the 2G Spectrum scandal that is currently under investigation.
Also, the CAG has said in a statement that the news report gives the impression as if "our audit has been finalised" and that the "audit of certain activities of DoS is under way."
"Very preliminary queries have been raised which are yet to be replied by that department. Since the audit is at very preliminary stage, it can by no stretch of imagination, be concluded that information as given in the media reports are findings of this department," the CAG statement said.
The report in Hindu says an agreement was made between the Indian Space Research Organisation's commercial arm Antrix Corporation Ltd and Devas Multimedia Private Ltd in 2005. According to the newspaper, CAG has begun its investigations into the scam.
The report refers to preliminary CAG estimates that the spectrum could have caused a loss of around Rs 2 lakh crore to the exchequer.
The CAG has reportedly questioned the DoS move of alleged preferential allocation of the spectrum to Devas Multimedia without going by any open competitive bidding process.
(With PTI inputs)
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CNN-IBN .......
Even as the 2G spectrum scam continues to haunt the UPA Government, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has started probing an alleged S-band scam.
At the centre of controversy this time was the high-value and scarce S-band spectrum and the allegation was that a private company has been given the high-value bandwidth at throwaway prices without competitive bidding by the Indian Space Research Organisation or the ISRO.
The CAG was probing the ISRO and looked into an agreement between ISRO's commercial company Antrix and Devas Multimedia. The company is headed by Dr MG Chandrasekhar, former scientific secretary at ISRO.
The agreement was related to launching two satellites by ISRO for Devas. But apart from launching, the space agency has also gave Devas a larger hidden benefit - the use of 70 MHz of the scarce S-band spectrum over a 20-year period.
CAG estimated that not auctioning off this spectrum caused losses of atleast Rs 2 lakh crore.
The CAG has refused to comment on the report. And the opposition, showing no signs of fatigue over its JPC demand in the 2G scam is targetting the Prime Minister once again.
The Indian Space Research Organisation has responded to these reports. In a statement it said, "The Agreement entered into by Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, and Devas on January 28, 2005 is already under review by the Department of Space. A decision on the matter is likely to be taken soon."
The questions which remain unanswered are: Government is to review allocation - why was the contract signed in the first place?
Why did it take a media expose for the Government to act?
Was a favour granted to a former ISRO employee?
Why was the contract not cancelled even after ISRO chief's recommendation?
As the Dept of Space, of which ISRO is a part, falls under the PMO, the Opposition focused its attack on the Prime Minister.
"The loss has been estimated to be about Rs 2 lakh crore. Custom made two communication satellite and 10 transponders will be used for commercial purposes. Department of space comes directly under the PM. The BJP alleges that this whole affair is viscidiated by fraud. This is just not loss of revenue, this is a rare spectrum, that's a national asset. This agreement should be nullified, with immediate recovery," said BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman.
The Hindu Business line report also suggested the deal allowed Devas the use of 10 transponders on two satellites. CNN-IBN was not allowed access to the Devas office in Bangalore and no one was willing to comment on camera.
Devas issued a statement saying they do not own any spectrum, and the services they provide will be based on satellite transponders leased from ISRO/Antrix, wherein both - the satellite and spectrum - belong to the space research organisation.
Just as a matter of comparison, when the Government auctioned just 15 Mhz of similar airwaves for 3G mobile services it earned more than Rs 67,000 crores.
As the S-band spectrum appeared as the symptom of latest headache, the UPA Government, following the media expose, said the reported deal on allocation of the scarce spectrum "is under examination".
ISRO in a statement on Monday evening said, "The agreement entered by Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, and M/S Devas on January 28, 2005 is already under review by the Department of Space and a decision on the matter will be taken soon".
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UPDATE 1

India govt hit by new telecom scandals
Feb 8 (Reuters) - India's federal auditor is probing the allocation of satellite-based communication licenses, sources said on Tuesday, increasing pressure on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as his government grapples with graft charges that threaten their stability.
The allocation of Internet spectrum by the space ministry, which Singh oversees, and an unrelated granting of free broadband rights by a state-run telecom firm adds to allegations against a government already grappling with a $39 billion telecoms scandal.
Singh's ruling Congress party-led coalition government has seen its term tarnished by a string of corruption scams that have paralysed parliament, led to the sacking of a minister, and eroded public confidence in the prime minister and his party.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is being probed by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for allocating mobile internet spectrum in 2005 without a proper bidding process that may have cost the exchequer up to 2 trillion rupees ($44.2 billion), a CAG source who declined to be named told Reuters.
Officials at ISRO told Reuters that the CAG probe was taking place, but declined to comment further.
The government moved to cancel ISRO's allocation of lucrative S-band telecoms spectrum, able to provide 4G broadband internet services to India's rapidly-expanding mobile phone market, to private firm Devas Multimedia, local media reported on Tuesday.
ISRO had told Department of Telecommunications last year that it would cancel the contract if there was any violation of norms.
"The department wishes to clarify that the agreement entered into by Antrix (in a joint venture with Devas)... is already under review... A decision on the matter is likely to be taken soon," a Department of Space statement was reported as saying.
India is also probing whether state-run telecom firm Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) appointed franchises for broadband wireless access without charging any upfront payment, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported, citing a note from the Telecoms minister.
BSNL had appointed franchises on a revenue-share basis, even after paying 80 billion rupees ($1.77 billion).
"It has been pointed out that 'cheap access' has been provided to these franchisees by BSNL, including costly broadband wireless access spectrum in metropolitan cities for which BSNL has already made massive upfront payment," Telecoms Minster Kapil Sibal was reported as writing in a note to the Department of Telecom secretary.
BSNL chairman Gopal Das declined to comment when contacted by Reuters, saying he has not seen the newspaper report. ($1=45.32 Indian Rupee) (Additional reporting by Anurag Kotoky; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Miral Fahmy)
(If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to news.feedback.asia@thomsonreuters.com)



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