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Nair rubbishes talk of scam in Antrix-Devas deal

The ex-ISRO chairman accused Radhakrishnan of taking ‘deliberate action’ and then trying to justify it.

Published: 26th January 2012 07:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 06:22 PM   |  A+A-

BANGALORE: The ISRO row escalated today with former chairman G Madhavan Nair rubbishing allegations of a scam in the scrapped controversial Antrix-Devas deal while space agency chief K Radhakrishnan defended the decision to bar four scientists from any re-employment.

For the second consecutive day Nair, who is among the four scientists barred from government jobs, was unsparing in his criticism of Radhakrishnan and accused him of taking "deliberate action" and then trying to justify it by lining up arguments in its favour.

The government's action barring Nair and three eminent space scientists from any re-employment for their alleged role in the controversial allocation of scarce S-band space segment to private firm Devas and his subsequent diatribe against Radhakrishnan has caused a disquiet among senior ISRO scientists here.

Nair rubbished suggestions of a scam in the Antrix-Devas deal and maintained that estimation of huge loss to the exchequer is "totally erroneous".

The scientists, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the turn of events since yesterday were a sad episode and the space agency's image has certainly taken a severe beating.

"It's like ISRO edifice crumbling," one of them said while another felt it was worse than a "couple of mission failures."

One scientist said whatever work done in ISRO over the years is shattered in one moment.

Asked for his comments on the action against Nair and others, former ISRO Chairman U R Rao said: "I have no idea at all. I have nothing to do with it".

Nair, architect of India's first moon mission, has blamed Radhakrishnan for the action, accusing him of misleading the government and pursuing a "personal agenda".

A source close to Radhakrishnan claimed that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief remained unfazed and believed he has not done anything wrong.

He said Radhakrishnan was unperturbed by Nair's outbursts.

Radhakrishnan has so far chosen not to react publicly to Nair's pungent attacks on him.

Speaking to PTI Nair today indicated that the proposal to cancel the Antrix-Devas deal was initiated by Radhakrishnan.

"A letter went from DoS (Department of Space) to the higher-ups towards the end of 2009 or early 2010 (when Radhakrishnan was the Chairman), saying that for some reason or other, the (Antrix-Devas) agreement has to be cancelled.

First proposal went from here (DoS)," he said.

This letter -- which indicates "deliberate action" (by Radhakrishnan) -- triggered discussion, debate on "how and why" of the contract.

"That means you (Radhakrishnan) make up your mind to take action on something and then afterwards line up all arguments in favour of such a decision. This is totally unheard of," he said.

On the deal, Nair said people are trying to mix up spectrum vis-a-vis satellite transponder leasing.

"These are two different issues. ISRO deals with only leasing of transponders," he said.

Nair said ISRO was supposed to give two transponders to Devas which is not unusual as, for example, Tata Sky have leased 12 (ISRO) transponders from one satellite completely for their use.

Even if ISRO gave transponders to an operator, the latter can't start operations such as uplinking, downlinking and beaming over the Indian continent till it got licence from the Department of Telecom, Nair said.

As per his understanding, even in late 2009, Devas was still trying to get DoT licence and no licence had been granted at the time.

"The whole thing is not linked to spectrum usage or anything, and the amount of what's projected as Rs 20,000 crore etc is totally erroneous", he said.

"ISRO's budget is hardly Rs 4,000 crore per year. If I (ISRO) can get Rs 20,000 crore by supplying two transponders, what's the need for any government support for ISRO?", Nair asked. "So, it's totally an erroneous argument".

One should compare the cost of transponder with prices prevailing in the international market, he contended.

"Trying to link up the whole deal as scam etc is ....it's based on wrong understanding of the issue," he said.



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