It does not bode well for a country whose appointed Prime Minister (or whatever he fancies himself) whimpers and cowers and professes helplessness at the misdeeds of what is happening in and around. We live in charged situations and things are deteriorating at a rapid pace.
Corruption and nepotism is order of the day. So well, this S Band is a needed for “wireless broadband” and since spectrum is a scarce resource, there is money to be made at public expense. The deal is simple. Create a shell company, buy spectrum (or have it arranged to be transferred) and sell the equity to a foreign investor.
In effect, the foreign investor may be Chinese, American or of any hue or color. By a simple stroke, these guys get a toe hold in the state of security, a backdoor entry for them. In event of war, when communication needs would be paramount, these bastards would simply cut us out.
Hence, despite the huge brouhaha about the charges sticking out, the “zero sum game” of the losses and the “tamasha”, people are fed up. Although, I still don’t see any signs of “mass upheavals” all around barring perhaps the Chinese armed terrorists called as Naxalites and the on slaught of cheap human labor and sex traffickers from Bangladesh.
Therefore, The Statesman has correctly identified the Sunday Special as S Band Spectrum Scam and analyzed it’s ramifications.
Devas was conceived in secrecy by an “incestuous” relationship with ISRO. Most of its board members and senior employees are former ISRO personnel who provide inside information. The deal was masterminded by three former scientific secretaries of ISRO. The ISRO headquarters is very much chairman-centric and of late has become a den of corruption and favouritism. They misrepresented facts to the then secretary, department of space, and misled the Space Commission and the Union Cabinet. The fact that a very one-sided contract was signed by Antrix with Devas on 28 January 2005 was never disclosed to the Space Commission or the Union Cabinet.
This is the reason why the news has gained so much prominence.
Here is a shocker (with my emphasis).
The S-band spectrum, defined as radio waves with frequencies that range from 2 GHz to 4 GHz, was allocated by the World Radio-communication Conference for terrestrial mobile communications services in the year 2000. Armed with this confidential information, Devas is supposed to have developed a novel commercial application in association with global experts and approached for S-band spectrum allocation at a throwaway price. Under the legally binding agreement, Devas would pay Antrix a total of $ 300 million over a period of 12 years. The cost of building the two satellites, GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A would be Rs 416 crore. The launching cost is extra. ISRO had approached Arianespace, a European consortium, for the launch of GSAT-6 because of delays in its own satellite launch programme. The hidden benefit of the use of 70 MHz S-band spectrum, according to the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, would be more than Rs. 200 lakh crore.
If this is not good enough, the author has made a clear case of why the guilty needs to be punished.
The emerging requirements of S-band spectrum by strategic government organizations and societal needs were ignored. Defence minister AK Antony woke up to the S-band requirements of the Army, Navy and Air Force only after the Cabinet decided to annul the deal. “The government is now conscious of the necessity of giving the required capability to the armed forces, paramilitary and other strategic organisations,” he said.
The author goes on to provide instances of serious national security lapses.
Between January 2005 and July 2010 Devas was busy selling the capacity to foreign vendors, getting foreign investment board clearances, attempting trials without witnesses and waiting for European technology to mature which they could sell as their own technology. It offloaded 17 per cent of its stakes to Deutsche Telekon (Singapore) for $75 million. In short, attempting bigger frauds and covering their tract as the satellites were getting ready.
Hence the big issue remains of “money laundering” by the established players, loss of paper trail and the likes.
It’s a pathetic scenario indeed.