Bangalore: One of India's best-known scientists, G Madhavan Nair, who also headed the Indian Space Research Organization or ISRO, has been blacklisted for government jobs. The government's decision is based on Mr Nair's alleged role in allotting valuable and scarce S-band spectrum to a private company named Devas. The contract with Devas was signed during Mr Nair's term as ISRO chief, a tenure highlighted by India's maiden moon mission, Chandrayaan-1.
"Am I worse than terrorists?" asked Mr Nair, according to the Press Trust of India. He was referring to the fact that he's been banned from government positions along with three other scientists though an official enquiry into the Devas deal has not been completed. No chargesheet has been filed against Mr Nair and his three former colleagues: K Bhaskaranarayana who was Scientific Secretary at ISRO; K N Shankara, former Director of the ISRO satellite centre; and K R Sridharamurthi, who was the Managing Director of ISRO's commercial arm, named Antrix.
Terming the action as "unjustified", Mr Nair told NDTV that he will challenge the order in court once he is officially served a notice. The government says he is free to appeal against the 'ban'.
Mr Nair blames the current ISRO Chairman, K Radhakrishnan who replaced him after he retired in October 2009. "He (Radhakrishnan) has misled the Government on the whole issue (the controversial Devas deal). He is the key person who worked behind this; he misled and miscommunicated to the Government and he has taken action", alleged Mr Nair.
In May last year, the Prime Minister set up a three-member committee to examine the agreement between Antrix and Devas after media reports suggested the deal, signed in 2005, was skewed heavily in favour of Devas. Two custom-built satellites and a whopping 70 MHz of S-Band spectrum, to be used for multi-media broadband services, were being given to Devas for Rs. 1000 crore - a sweetheart deal that, according to some estimates, meant the government would incur losses worth two lakh crore rupees. The controversy was worrying for the government as ISRO reports directly to the Prime Minister's Office.
In 2005, Antrix had agreed to build two satellites on which Devas would lease transponders in India. Bundled into the deal was a whopping 70 MHz of S-Band spectrum priced at Rs. 1000 crore - a sweetheart deal. The deal was officially called off in February last year.
The committee set up by the Prime Minister was meant to determine if ISRO officials had deliberately misled the cabinet into sanctioning the deal without sharing its actual terms.