New Delhi (JPN/Bureau): Rights to use satellites worth billions of rupees are being sold in a strangely opaque manner. Why did Tata Sky’s rent for transponder get reduced after the deal had already been finalised, leading to a loss of Rs 4.8 cr to the exchequer every year?

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd got free transponder for three years which led to a loss of Rs 229 cr to the government. Even DRDO and Indian Air Force suddenly stopped paying their dues for a transponder and Antrix couldn’t take any action as the deals were totally one sided.

Devas Multimedia is only one example, the fact is that the business of selling the country’s most hi-tech facility for communication and broadcast on lease is full of irregularities and has put a question mark over the Department of Space (DoS), ISRO and Antrix.

Satellites are national properties built after much hard work and expenditure and are the pillars of the country’s communications infrastructure. It is the duty of ISRO and DoS’ commercial arm, Antrix, to fully tap their revenue potential. But initial investigation into transponder lease deals has shown that the customer has gained immense profit at the cost of government’s potential earnings.

Documents available with Dainik Jagran indicate that the DoS and ISRO’s opacity were known to the government for long. Both the bodies are under the Prime Minister’s Office and the Comptroller and Auditor General has indicated this anomaly many a times.

Tata Sky had been leased twelve high power KU band transponders on INSAT in 2004 for a rent of Rs 5 cr per year. But when the pact was finalized, the rent was mysteriously cut to Rs 4.6 cr, without even the company asking for it. It even got permission from Antrix for free use of the transponder for a month.

BSNL was luckier. It got permission to use thirty four transponders for V-Sat operations in July 2003. But Antrix could fix its rates only in May 2006. So BSNL started paying for the service only after 2006 as Antrix did not bother to send it pending dues bill. This bizarre deal led to a loss of Rs 229 cr.

DRDO, under the Defense Ministry, randomly stopped paying its dues for a transponder, saying it could not make use of the facility provided by Antrix because its project was getting delayed. Even Airforce Headquarters followed DRDO’s lead and both organizations are yet to pay Rs 7 cr worth dues as Antrix could not do anything what with there being no clause to cancel the agreements.