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Govt of India terminates S-band contract

New Delhi, India: As allegations of wrongful allocation of S-band frequencies for radio waves to a private company is mounting pressure on the Government of India, the government announced that it had already decided to terminate the controversial contract with Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia.

It also claimed that it had not incurred any financial losses because of the contract. But the Department of Space conceded it had not fully informed the Cabinet that the two satellites it intended to launch — G-SAT6 and G-SAT6A — were meant primarily for use by Devas Multimedia.

“One point that was not explicitly mentioned (when the proposal for these two satellites was placed before the Cabinet for approval) was that these two satellites are going to be predominantly used by Devas Multimedia as per the contract,” said chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K Radhakrishnan. “Ideally, that should have been explicitly mentioned but it was not done.”

The ISRO chairman is ex-officio Secretary of Department of Space that functions directly under the Prime Minister. He is also the ex-officio chairman of the Space Commission and the chairman of the Board of Directors of ISRO’s marketing organisation, Antrix Corporation.

The first written communication from ISRO to the Prime Minister’s Office about this contract and the likely fallout came only in December in a letter to the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.

This was months after the Space Commission had completed a review process and decided to annul the contract, sources said.

Antrix Corporation, fully owned by the government, had entered into a contract with Devas Multimedia in 2005 to use these two yet-to-be-launched satellites for providing satellite-based applications for mobile devices through S-band frequencies. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India is probing the contract that was awarded without competitive bidding.

Radhakrishnan, who became ISRO chairman in October 2009, said the Department of Space had already undertaken a review of the contract with Devas, following which it was decided to terminate the contract. “We have started necessary action to terminate the contract,” he said.

Radhakrishnan said the review had been necessitated by a realisation within ISRO that the S-band was needed for larger “national and strategic” purposes. However, he did not specify the nature of these ‘national and strategic’ purposes that were not evident when the contract was signed in 2005 but became apparent in 2009.

Source: Indian Express