Prime Minister Manmohan Singh turned the tables on the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, on Thursday, pointing out that the discussions on the Antrix-Devas deal — which Jaitley had called the “mother of all sweetheart deals” — began when the opposition was in power.
Jaitley quizzed the government on the credentials of the US company that promoted Devas, Forge Advisors. “The question is better posed to his own party leadership and to the then prime minister,” Singh said.
He said discussions between Forge Advisors and Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and its commercial arm, Antrix, were initiated in March and May 2003, respectively, and continued throughout 2003-04.
The Forge-Antrix memorandum of understanding between was signed in July 2003 when Jaitley’s party was in power and then prime minister AB Vajpayee was the minister-in-charge of the department of space.
Reading from a prepared text, Singh said Jaitley had confused S-band space segment capacity with terrestrial spectrum while quoting figures in the range of lakhs of crores. “That has no basis in fact as no allocation of terrestrial spectrum has been made by the government to either Antrix or Devas.”
He, however, called the 2G spectrum and CWG-related scams “unfortunate developments”, and said no wrongdoer would go unpunished. Referring to the 2G scam, the PM said there was nothing wrong with the telecom policy being pursued since 1999 and it had paid “rich dividends,” though the fault lay with the implementation. “People talk of scams and if there is a scam, it must be dealt with.”
On black money, he said the problem had not occurred only four to five years ago. It was older than that. “The Centre was ready to sit with all to discuss how to deal with it and suggestions would be considered.”