Eminent space scientist and the former Chairman of ISRO, U.R. Rao, on Saturday described as “sad” the Centre's action in the controversial Antrix-Devas deal barring four space scientists from holding government posts and the developments thereafter.

Dr. Rao, presently Chairman of the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad and co-Chairman, the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa, was referring to the January 13 order in which the Department of Space sought exclusion of the former ISRO Chairman, G. Madhavan Nair, and three other space scientists from re-employment, committee roles or any other important role under the government.

“Unfortunate”

Talking to journalists here on the sidelines of a seminar organised by the Karnataka Science and Technology Academy headed by him, he said, “Four scientists have been penalised, or whatever you call it. The way it went on and outbursts…it is a bit unfortunate.”

Pointing out that the Space department enjoyed great respect in the country, he said, “Whatever is happening is not good for the country.” This, he said, would affect the morale of all the people [scientists]. Not only that of persons being talked about…the organisation gets affected. After all, one feels proud of an organisation…If morale goes, it does hamper [work].”

Clarifying that he did not want to get involved in the controversy, Prof. Rao said, “The details of this the committee [constituted by the Prime Minister] must have seen.”

Asked what should have ideally happened in the case, Prof. Rao refused to comment saying he did not have the details. “I have no idea. I don't want to get involved,” he said. The controversy had arisen more than 18 years after he retired, he added.

“We build satellites in two-and-a-half years, whereas 25 years was the average period taken to build the first satellite. Nobody knew what a satellite was,” he said, pointing out how parts of a satellite were taken on a bicycle or bullock cart for testing. “There were classic pictures published saying India goes from bullock carts to space age…It all happened because people believed in us.”

India lagging behind

He regretted that India lagged far behind China. It could be partly due to the combining of defence with space research in that country. India needed to give far more importance to science and technology. Right people needed to be put in the right place. The country's development was dependent on its science and technology, not politics.

Keywords: ISRO row

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