ISRO deal a mistake, government corrected it: Antony

Thursday, February 17, 2011

NEW DELHI - Terming the controversial S-band spectrum deal between the Indian space agency’s commercial arm Antrix and private firm Devas a “mistake,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony Thursday blamed ISRO for the contract and said the government had corrected it by cancelling the pact.

Asserting that the government’s hands were clean and it had nothing to hide or fear on the S-band deal, Antony told reporters here that the government had now taken a drastic step and that showed it was very serious on the matter.

The deal, finalised in 2005 without any competitive bidding, was under review for the past many days by the government and the space department before it was annulled Thursday.

“They (ISRO) have done some mistake, the government corrected it. That too after studying it and taking a drastic step. That shows the government is very serious. The government has nothing to hide…nothing to fear. Our hands are very clean,” Antony said, shortly after the government scrapped the deal on the allocation of S-band spectrum, high value and scarce radio waves.

Noting that the Antrix-Devas deal was “unfortunate,” antony rued that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had not consulted his ministry before signing the deal with Devas five years ago.

“It was unfortunate. Earlier, we (the defence ministry) were not consulted by whoever took the decision at that time. All aspects are now being inquired into,” he said on the deal that triggered a major controversy after the media, citing the government auditor’s findings, reported that the agreement for handing over 70 Mhz of S-Band spectrum to the private firm for Rs.1,000 crore had resulted in a loss of Rs.2 lakh crore to the nation.

“The S-band is mainly for strategic forces in which our army, navy and the air force have got a major stake, because it is a precious asset for us as as the availability is limited,” he said.

The defence minister said the s-band radio waves would have to be given to the armed forces, the paramilitary and other strategic services. “That is the first priority. Now the government is very conscious about the necessity for giving required capability to the armed forces, paramilitary and other organisations. Now they will be given first priority in the future. I hope their (armed forces) concern will be properly addressed. I am now confident about that,” he added.

Asked if the annulment of the deal would mean a financial obligation for the government to compensate the private firm, Antony said the follow-up action on the matter “would be revealed at the appropriate time.”

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