Madhavan Nair seeks fresh probe into Antrix-Devas deal

Eminent aerospace scientist Roddam Narasimha’s resignation from his position in the Space Commission last week appears to have given former Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) Chairman Madhavan G Nair a shot in the arm.


Ridiculing the findings of the Prathyush Sinha-led committee, Nair has now sought a fresh, comprehensive inquiry into the controversial $300 million deal between Devas and Antrix, Isro’s commercial arm.

Nair, in his last week’s letter to the V Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’ Office (PMO), has even accussed the Department of Space (DoS) of “having misled the Space Commission.”

Nair had always maintained that while the findings of the Narasimha-B K Chaturvedi committee were appropriate, the findings of the committee led by former CVC Prathyush Sinha appeared to be biased and inaccurate.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, he said: “The action taken against us (including three other scientists) is ill-conceived as the Centre was misled.” And that, thereby, there was not truth in the charges against him and the other three scientists––A Bhaskarnarayana, K R Sridharmurthi and K N Shankara––who are all blacklisted from any kind of re-employment in government agencies. Although he did not name any individual, Nair did not shy away from saying that the DoS could have misled the Commission because of pressure from certain quarters.

Nair claimed that the present scenario is a result of “gross misjudgment and wrong inputs with the Space Commission.” “...This is a serious mistake and all the recent actions are to cover up the same, making us scapegoats,” Nair quoted his letter.

Criticising the DoS for not disclosing the recommendations of the B N Suresh Committee, appointed by K Radhakrishnan, Chairman, Isro, in November 2009, Nair claimed that the committee had actually not recommended the cancellation of the Devas agreement but only said that it needed to be “re-negotiated in the light of security/societal needs”.

The said committee had noted that the procedures involved in finalising the Devas deal were the same as in case of other agreements for leasing transponder capacity, he added. “They should have represented the findings of this committee properly before the Space Commission in July 2010,” Nair said, adding that the Commission directed Isro to annul the deal even as the Suresh Committee had not recommended it.

Nari refuted all the charges levelled against him. “The basic charges are that the Insat Coordination Committee (ICC) was not consulted, Cabinet was not adequately informed and that the Spectrum was needed for security needs,” he said.

But, “...the ICC, through the Satcom policy had authorised DoS to lease out transponder capacity to private users, so we didn’t need to consult and as for the cabinet not being kept in the loop, it was never the practice to mention the name of specific private users,” he said. Speaking about the spectrum needs of the defence sector, he said that about 80 MHz band in this region (of 150 MHz) is already reserved for security needs in four orbital slots and that only about 20 MHz will be used in the near future.

Having presented these arguments, Nair stressed that the Space Commission was misled.  Besides these, Nair has also pointed out recommendations made by the Space Commission which have not been implemented yet.

 Narayanasamy speaking over telephone from Pondicherry said: “I have not been in Delhi since mid last week when the letter was sent. I have not had the chance to see it yet.”

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