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Dept of Space gave ‘certain benefits’ to Tata Sky: CAG

It was learnt that despite being ‘fifth’ in terms of order, preference for allocation of satellite capacity was granted to Tata Sky but not to Doordarshan (DD) and was allocated capacity on INSAT 4A satellite, which was launched earlier in January, 2007.

The national auditor in its report, which was placed before Parliament on November 28, mentioned that, “Chairman of Tata Group was one of the non functional directors in the board of directors of Antrix Corporation. Although there may not be any direct impact on the decision making process within Antrix, allocation of Ku band transponders of INSAT 4A on exclusive basis to Tata Sky does raise the question of conflict of interest.”

Shockingly, national channel - DD – was allowed capacity on a foreign satellite (NSS-6) in 2004 before allocation of capacity to Tata Sky on INSAT 4A with a prime orbital slot of 83 degree east (which is considered as the best slot among all for clarity and good results as it is positioned in the middle of the country).

The DoS in its reply to the audit agency clarified that DD was allocated capacity on a foreign satellite (NSS-6) before allocation of capacity to Tata Sky on INSAT 4A. “As DD had already started their DTH service from the foreign satellite, the services were migrated to INSAT 4A after the end of their contract period.

However, DoS did not clarify that whether capacity of INSAT 4A at the prime orbital slot of 83 degree east was offered to DD and turned down by the latter, which is significant in the context that DoS granted exclusive rights over this prime slot to Tata Sky,” audit report reads, with a headline ‘Irregularities in the first come-first served policy adopted by DoS.’

While acknowledging the audit observation, DoS held a meeting with Tata Sky in July 2013 in which it was agreed to relinquish the first right of refusal on the orbital slot. However, no formal amendment was effected in this regard as on March 2014.

Meanwhile, DoS launched GSAT 10 in September 2012 and placed it in the orbital slot 83 degree east (same as INSAT 4A). As INSAT 4A was functioning on reduced power, DoS offered to swap 12 transponders of INSAT 4A with GSAT 10. Though Tata Sky initially agreed with the arrangement, it later backed out stating that it was looking for additional satellite capacity with a foreign satellite as a long term engagement.

“But, fearing litigation from Tata Sky, DoS did not allocate 12 transponders of Ku band satellite capacity of GSAT 10 to any other user,” audit report reads.

The audit also highlighted the loss of the government due to non revision of transponders’ charges.
It was noticed that the terms and conditions of the transponders lease agreements of DoS has favoured private service providers and were against the financial interest of the government. The period of lease committed in the DTH transponder lease agreements between DoS and the DTH service providers for satellite capacity from INSAT system ranged from five to 10 years. Audit observed that the transponders lease agreements entered by DoS did not include provision of price revision.

Based on Prasar Bharti’s request, DoS allocated an additional transponder to it but the latter did not enter into a firm agreement/MoU. Prasar Bharti later informed that the additional transponder was not put to use since the MOU was not signed. As a result, revenue of Rs 5.90 crore towards lease charges was not collected by DoS.
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