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2011 - ISRO Spectrum Allocation Scam


FRAME OF THE SCAM
We have been prone to uninterrupted scandals happening in Independent India and one such in the series is the Indian Space Research Organization related Scam which was kept under the hat for nearly 6 years and only hatched out its secret in 2011. ISRO spectrum allocation scam involves the process of allocating the S-band spectrum by ISRO-arm Antrix to Devas Multimedia at a time when it is not his or her turn and especially without going through an official proposal offer. The Devas were misusing the allocated S-band spectrum by giving the company unlimited maximum advantage in the telecommunication space in terms of high speed mobile communication. This is when the freebie deal 70 MHz enjoyed by Devas as part of a satellite launch deal with ISRO comes under the scanner for a meagre 1000 crores. Some of the notable people in the telecommunication industry like MTNL and BSNL landed up in paying Rs. 12,847 crore for 20 MHz. This is how the sale or bid for the 3G of the 15 MHz services resulted in the Government securing a massive profit of Rs 67,719 crores to its cash box.


ISRO SPECTRUM ALLOCATION SCAM INVOLVED A REVENUE LOSS
Reports stated that the ISRO spectrum allocation scam involved a revenue loss of about Rs. 2, 00,000 crore to the Government of India exchequer according to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). It was when the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found the scam in February 2011 where it was a shock to the public when the spectrum deal scam was disclosed between ISRO-arm Antrix and a private company Devas Multimedia. For a period of nearly 20 years, the private player Devas Multimedia was using the 70 MHz S-band. Thus the accused in the ISRO spectrum allocation scam are both the ISRO's commercial arm Antrix Corp and Devas Multimedia and the reason is the assignment of 70 Megahertz of scarce S-band spectrum for a 20-year period without a formal bidding by the ISRO's commercial arm Antrix Corp. In fact both ISRO and the Department of Space had a very good wide spread clean reputation for the past decades. But unfortunately it was only after 2009 because of some people inside the department following infringed principles with the aid of media blew the whistle on the secret deal.

SPECTRUM DEAL OF ISRO
This is supposed to be a bigger scam than the 2G according to the media reports. Later investigations show that the private organization Devas Multimedia is owned by a former ISRO official M.G. Chandrasekhar. According to newspaper agency reports the Government had lost about Rupees 2 lakh crores in the spectrum deal of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization).The branch of the Indian Space Research Organization falls directly under the control of the Prime Minister, so the members of the opposition parties then came up with number of questions and asked for a proper statement on this issue of ISRO spectrum allocation scam to the Devas Multimedia.

ALLOCATION OF THE S-BAND SPECTRUM
The then Minister of Communications, Mr.Kapil Sibal had given a statement to this question saying that there was no loss which has happened because of the allocation of the S-band spectrum of 3G of the 15 MHz service to Devas Multimedia. This was the same statement given by him for the issues related to 2 G scam also. All the opposition party members were very stubborn about a thorough probe into this scam for this was termed as "very serious" reports alleging that ISRO benefited a private firm through assignment of scarce S-band spectrum without a bidding process. There are other new issues that came up along with this scam. The ISRO is under the Department of Space which is under the Prime Minister. This is also a new scam," CPI (M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury told reporters. The CPI National Secretary D Raja said the new revelations were "very serious", a view echoed by senior RSP leader Abani Roy.They demanded for a thorough investigation by the Joint Parliamentary Committee. Media reports claimed that the Comptroller and Auditor General had initiated inquiries into ISRO's agreement with a Bangalore-based firm for launch of two satellites besides allegedly providing 70 MHz of S-band spectrum for a period of 20 years without going through a bidding process.

INVESTIGATIONS ON THE ISRO SPECTRUM ALLOCATION SCAM
The preliminary reports submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) revealed that the spectrum allocation could have caused the exchequer a loss in excess of Rs.two lakh crore. The investigations on the ISRO Spectrum Allocation Scam slowly revealed different information's adding a new dimension to the 2G spectrum scam. Since ISRO is under the command of the Department of Space which is directly headed by the Prime Minister, there are serious implications on the security of the country.As already mentioned ISRO along with the Department of Space had a very good reputation and opinion on a widespread angle over the decades. The whistle on the secret deal blew the lid of the media due to the infringed principled actions followed by the people within the department itself and all this happened or were brought to light only after 2009.

PROBLEMS
ISRO Spectrum Allocation Scam
  • Some of the related concerns on this issue which came up during the process of enquiry which was recorded by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) are as follows,
  • No competitive bids were announced during the assignment of the S-band spectrum.
  • There were no comprehensive or follow -up on the organizational control systems.
  • The details or the reports about the assignment of the S-band spectrum was not clearly informed in the Prime Minister's Office, the Cabinet, and to the Department of the Space Commission.
  • Public resources were being diverted to building two customer-specific satellites
  • The norms and terms relating to the contract details were diverged from the terms and conditions of the earlier deals entered into by ISRO and Antrix.
DEVAS MULTIMEDIA ORGANIZATION
DEVAS MULTIMEDIA ORGANIZATION
These details very clearly give the picture that the results of the special Business Line investigation, backed up by proper legal documents and other authentic confirmation, in The Hindu and Business Line had brought the CAG's deserving praise its vigorous or determined attempt to light and placed the basic essence, scale, and modal quality of the S-band spectrum scandal on the public agenda. The Devas Multimedia Organization was a venture started in 2004 involving some of the former officials of the Indian space programme. The Devas Multimedia were secured with confidential information of what ISRO could do for it by launching customer-specific satellites to make available at a throwaway price a large chunk of S-band spectrum. The Devas Multimedia was also supported by foreign investors.

COMPTROLLER AND THE AUDITOR GENERAL
The Comptroller and the Auditor General had a strong suspicion on the Department of Space and ISRO regarding the scandal involved in the assignment of S-band spectrum and is reportedly investigating losses worth Rs 2 lakh crores in the scam. The Comptroller and the Auditor General got more alerted in this issue because unlike in previous deals, ISRO placed no restrictions on Devas Multimedia for continuing ahead in hiring out of spectrum, which indirectly clearly stated that the company could make huge amounts of money by further sub-leasing its entitlement and special rights. It has been calculated by the CAG that the loss to the Government because of this deal is nearly Rs 2 lakh crore for all commercial requirement it involves custom made two-communication satellites namely GSat-6 and GSat-6A and 10 transponders. Thus this is a great loss to the National Asset and just not only to the income of the Government of India. It is very clear that the loss of Rs 2 lakh crores which has occurred because of the ISRO spectrum allocation scam is much more than what has happened in 2G spectrum which was about Rs 1.76 lakh crores.

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