The Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) is feeling the heat of an indefinite hunger strike launched three days ago by a scientist associated with the varsity’s Inter-University Centre for Nano-materials and Devices.

Joseph Makkoli, the scientist, said the hunger strike was justifiable as Cusat had terminated his employment defying a High Court order and denied him two-and-a-half-years’ salary. Cusat authorities, however, said Mr. Makkoli’s refusal to follow due procedures stalled progress in the matter. But the pressure is building on the varsity to find an amicable solution to the issue. Students and a section of the teaching staff have already pledged their support for Mr. Makkoli. Furthermore, the inter-university centre has stopped functioning after Mr. Makkoli’s removal as no faculty member is ready to take on the mantle.

Research work

Mr. Makkoli said he joined Cusat as a research associate in the Department of Applied Chemistry in 2002 and initiated research on nano-structured conjugated polymer-based sensors, solar cells and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). He claimed it was he who designed and proposed the Inter-University Centre for Nano-materials and Devices and obtained funds from the State government to establish it. He claimed he was an adjunct faculty member at Cusat.

“It is a lie. There is no provision under the statutes of the varsity to appoint an Adjunct Faculty. Mr. Makkoli was only a temporary staff member on a project. His service ended with the project work’s completion. The Syndicate empowered us to clear his dues on submission of the progress report and performance report. He was also directed to produce a non-liability certificate. These are the formalities practised in any office, but he refused to comply,” said Cusat registrar A. Ramachandran.

Cusat’s claim

But Mr. Makkoli and his supporters have questioned Cusat’s claim that the project work had been completed. “He had filed a suit in the Kerala High Court pointing out the violations on the part of Cusat. The court ordered status quo the matter was decided upon. How can they refuse him his salary and the right to work,” said Joy Kaitharath, a rights activist.

“He was just a project scientist. The period of the project was over. There will be an audit objection if we release his pending salary without seeking the progress and performance reports. He has to approach the registrar through the proper channel,” said Cusat Public Relations Officer Anil Kumar Vadavathoor.

Hidden motive

Mr. Makkoli, however, said there was a hidden motive behind the varsity’s move. Some people wished to sabotage the research undertaken by the Centre for Nano-materials and Devices.

They wished to terminate its functioning, he said. Mr. Makkoli wants the centre to be retained as a post-doctoral research institution.