S-band deal scrapping too little, too late: Opposition

Thursday, February 17, 2011

NEW DELHI - Opposition parties have termed Thursday’s cabinet decision to cancel a contract allocating scarce and high-value S-band spectrum to a private company as “too little, too late” and one which raises more questions, while Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Murli Manohar Joshi indicated the parliamentary panel could probe the matter.

“If we (PAC) feel the need, we will look into it,” Joshi told reporters here, adding the matter has not come before the PAC so far and the panel normally discusses a matter after the submission of a report.

“This is what is called too little, too late. Just cancelling the deal is not enough, the matter also be seriously investigated,” Joshi said.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) Thursday cancelled the contract between the Indian Space Research Organisation’s commercical arm Antrix and Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia allocating S-band spectrum at prices below the market rates.

According to media reports, a preliminary estimate by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had calculated the notional loss to the national exchequer due to the contract at Rs.2 lakh crore.

Joshi also said legal proceedings should be initiated against those who finalised such a contract.

Meanwhile, Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai said that the cancellation of the contract has raised more questions on the controversial deal. The government should explain why it had delayed the decision to scrap the deal, he added.

Forward Bloc national secretary G. Devarajan said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should explain his role as the space department comes under him.

“If the media had not brought forth the issue, it would have been another contract and deal which would have passed through,” Devarajan told IANS.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told IANS that Manmohan Singh, as the minister in charge, “was responsible for the ommissions and commissions in the S-band contract”.

“The PM’s reply is awaited. He cannot evade the issue by cancellation of the contract. His answers at the media interaction Wednesday were also evasive,” she added.

Sitharaman said the government should explain why it took so much time after it was decided in 2010 to scrap the contract with Devas.

“There was no transparency in the entire deal so far. The cancellation of the contract should not be the end of the matter. A thorough inquiry should follow and the role of the prime minister and other ministers should be probed,” she said.

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