PAC seeks inquiry against space dept

PAC seeks inquiry against space dept

A powerful panel of parliamentarians has demanded an inquiry against the Department of Space for favouring private companies like Tata Sky in allocating transponders in INSAT and GSAT satellites.

Even though the irregularities committed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) were first red-flagged by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) a year ago, the space agency has not yet launched any internal probe, as sought by the PAC.

The activities against which the probe was sought took place more than 12 years ago when direct-to-home (DTH) satellite services were brought to India by several public and private broadcasters, including Doordarshan, Tata Sky, Dish TV and Sun TV.

“While Tata Sky was fifth in the order of preference of satellite capacity allocation, it was granted precedence to INSAT-4A and given exclusive rights in December 2005, superseding Doordarshan. We are dismayed to note that the department has not initiated any action as yet,” the PAC, headed by Congress leader K V Thomas, said in its latest report, which was tabled in Parliament earlier this month.

Tata Sky was given the exclusive rights on Ku-band transponders, located at an orbital slot of 83 degrees east, for 10 years. “Tata Sky had a very advantageous position over other DTH service providers as it had the exclusive first right of refusal for using Ku-band transponders. Due to this, Ku-band transponders of GSAT-10 could not be allocated to any other DTH service provider. They remained idle, causing an annual loss of Rs 60 crore,” said the PAC report.

The Comptroller and Auditor General had also pointed out how the space department gave preferential treatment to Tata Sky.

In its 2016 report, the PAC had asked for an internal investigation and action within three months.The Isro’s reply, which came a year later, only said that “a committee is being constituted” to look into the issue. It , however, did not give the PAC its reasons for not launching the inquiry.

The 22-member PAC that reviews government expenditures found that the Isro had violated several other norms in managing the satellite transponders. Several instances of wasteful expenditure were also found.

Flaws had also been found in the lease agreements that the Indian DTH operators signed with the Isro. While the pacts with the Indian operators don’t have a price revision clause, Isro agreed to a 5-33% price revision when it signed similar agreements with foreign satellites on behalf of Indian vendors. This has already resulted in a loss of Rs 36 crore.

The PAC wanted a probe on such flawed agreements. But a year later, there is no action from the Isro on this front either.

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