Leading scientist quits over ISRO row

Leading scientist quits over ISRO row

By: || Updated: 24 Feb 2012 11:23 PM


New Delhi: A leading aerospace scientist has decided to quit
India’s Space Commission after what appears to be his disappointment
with the government’s decision to punish four former senior space
officials for their role in a satellite deal scrapped last year.

Roddam
Narasimha, who has sent his request to the Prime Minister, has been a
member of one of two government panels that had probed the satellite deal
between India’s space agency and Devas Multimedia, signed in January
2005 and cancelled by the government in February 2011. The government had
last month instructed the space department to deny the four former
officials, including former Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)
chief Madhavan Nair, any governmnent assignment or consultancy, citing
their roles in the deal.

Narasimha, a former director of the
National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore, who has been a member of the
Space Commission for nearly two decades, said there are two reasons for
his request. The actions against the former space officials “could
demoralise the Isro scientific community and adversely affect its ability
to take the kind of technological initiatives — not always without risk
— that are the hallmark of an innovative organisation,” he said in a
statement issued today. Narasimha had earlier this month told The
Telegraph that he was concerned that the Antrix-Devas affair would hurt
morale within Isro.

The government had cited “national
interest” in cancelling the deal between Antrix, Isro’s commercial
arm, and Devas. The two probes had both found the deal had been loaded in
favour of Devas and exposed the government to unwarranted financial risks.
Antrix had committed about Rs 800 crore on two satellites and pledged
almost all the capacity over a certain spectrum on the satellites to
Devas.

The probe into the Antrix-Devas deal by former cabinet
secretary BK Chaturvedi and Narasimha had found no evidence of any
“short-changing” on the spectrum, Narasimha said today, but had
recommended reforms to ensure certain identified lapses would not recur in
the future. “It has seemed most appropriate to me that the proposed
reforms... are carried out best by a commission of which I am no longer a
member,” Narasimha wrote.

This is the second reason for my
request, he said, adding that the Prime Minister has not yet accepted his
request. A former space official, who had no role in the deal, has said he
is puzzled by the conclusions of the second probe that was led by the
former chief vigilance commissioner P. Sinha with current Isro chairperson
K. Radhakrishnan, among others, as a member.

The language in the
conclusions, made public by the government, suggests that the former space
officials may have taken decisions to favour Devas for personal gains, the
official said. “There is innuendo, assumed mal-intent without any
evidence,” he said.




The Telegraph, Calcutta




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