S-band scam: Space Commission to meet today

New Delhi: India`s top space policy body is expected to discuss on Saturday a structural revamp of Antrix, ISRO`s commercial arm, against the backdrop of a controversial deal to lease out bulk transponders on two satellites to a private firm.

The Space Commission, headed by K Radhakrishnan, is meeting here during which Antrix Corporation`s contract with Devas Multimedia is likely to be discussed among other issues, sources said here.

The Commission had in July last year recommended annulment of the contract with Devas under which the private firm, floated by ex- ISRO officials, was to get on lease 90 percent of the S-band transponders on two satellites — GSAT 6 and GSAT 6A for its novel Digital Broadcast Audio Service.

Antrix had signed the contract in January 2005 and had got sanction of the Space Commission and the Union Cabinet for the two satellites without informing them that bulk capacity would be leased to Devas Multimedia.

In December 2009, ISRO ordered a review of the deal and subsequently Space Commission recommended its annulment on July 2, 2010. The Commission also suggested restructuring Antrix and a report on the matter had been submitted to ISRO subsequently.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointed a two-member committee to review the Antrix-Devas deal after a media expose claimed that it would have resulted in an estimated loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs two lakh crore.

Devas Multimedia welcomed the government`s decision to review various aspects of the deal under which it was to get bulk transponders of two satellites on lease.

The two-member committee is expected to fix responsibility for lapses, if any, suggest corrective steps, and review the adequacy of existing procedures and approval processes followed by Antrix, ISRO and the Space Department.

The committee members are BK Chaturvedi, member, Planning Commission and former Cabinet Secretary, and Roddam Narasimha, an aerospace scientist and Member, Space Commission. They have been asked to submit their report to the Prime Minister in a month.