Three of the seven remote sensing satellites of India, engaged in collective thematic data used for planning in disaster management and areas like agriculture, have underperformed, according to a report by Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).CAG claimed that satellites were launched without any planning, leading to a lot of wastage. It criticised the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) for not making any assessment of the data needed.
The auditors have recommended that NRSC should increase the price of the data and scrap its outdated policy on the use of the archived data. The report found that the NRSC is still reluctant to sell the out dated data. Several institutions need such material for training purposes. It has also been asked to prepare a marketing policy to sell its products and plan according to the needs of private users so that some returns were ensured.
Seven remote sensing satellites in operation during 2003-08 include: IRS-1C, IRS-P3, IRS 1D, Oceansat 1 P-4, Resourcesat-1-P6, Cartosat 1-P5 and Cartosat-2 P7. Out of these IRS-P3, 1C and P4 remained under utilised by as much as 50 per cent. The financial loss is big considering the fact that more than INR 2,000 crore were spent on these satellites. In its defence, NRSC claimed that P3 was only an experimental satellite while P4 had witnessed “onboard spacecraft power constraints”, a technical defect.
Apart from the government, the remote sensing images are also sold to private entities. But the revenue through these sales was not able to grow as customer base was not expanded. The report claimed that the data was not being sold at international rates.
The seven indigenous satellites were not the only source for data for NRSC, it also relies on foreign satellites like Landsat, NOAA, ERS and Quick Bird of the US, the report observed.