Thursday, February 24, 2011

No question of PMO approval for Antrix-Devas deal: Manmohan

New Delhi, Feb 24:

Seeking to clear the air on the controversy over allocation of S-Band spectrum, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today said that the deal to allocate transponder frequency on two satellites to the Indian arm of a US firm never came to his office for approval.

"There is no question of Prime Minister's Office being asked to approve the deal. It never came to that level," he said.

The Prime Minister was intervening during Question Hour in Rajya Sabha when the Opposition members sought to know who in the PMO was responsible for approving the deal between Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd (the Indian arm of Forge Advisors of US) and Antrix Corp, the commercial arm of ISRO.

Antrix, he said, is a commercial arm of ISRO and in normal course its deal with Devas does not go to the government for approval. Only the launch of satellite "did come to the Cabinet," he said. But the Devas-Antrix deal "was not mentioned in the Cabinet note''.

The Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, Mr V. Narayanasamy, said Antrix Corp Ltd, set up by the Department of Space in 1992, had signed an agreement with Devas in January 2005 for leasing part of the space segment capacity in S-band on two geostationary satellites.

The agreement details the terms and conditions under which part of the transponder capacity of these satellites will be made available to Devas for 12 years. This was as per the Satellite Communications Policy Framework for India approved by the Cabinet in June 1997 which authorised INSAT capacity to be leased to non-governmental parties.

The norms, guidelines and procedures for implementation of this policy were approved by the Cabinet in January 2000. "These provided for entering into bilateral agreements with other agencies for marketing this capacity," Dr Manmohan said.

He said in order to catalyse Digital Multimedia Services in India for which ground segment technology was evolving then in a very few developed countries, Antrix signed a MoU with Forge Advisors of US in July 2003. Subsequently, Forge promoted an Indian company called Devas with whom Antrix entered into an agreement in January 2005 for lease of S-band transponder capacity in two satellites.

He said the allocation of S-band spectrum was pointed out in December 2009. The Space Commission annulled the agreement when it was felt that S-Band was required for defence, paramilitary forces and societal purposes. Subsequently, the Cabinet Committee on Security too annulled the deal.

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