But faculty did not see dangers of their recommendation to dispose of equipment

A former storekeeper of the Chemistry Department of Delhi University successfully prevented the disposal of the gamma cell irradiator for two years, according to some former senior faculty members and non-teaching technical personnel of the department who, however, do not wish to be named.

Apparently, there have been moves to sell off the gamma irradiator through public auction since 2007-08. But the then storekeeper, who has served the department for long and was aware that it was dangerous do so, seems to have been successful in prevailing upon the faculty members on the departmental ‘write-off' committee not to consider the irradiator for auctioning.

“It is common knowledge in the department, certainly among the senior faculty, that we have a gamma cell irradiator with cobalt-60 source in it,” said the former department professor.

The present keeper, perhaps not being as aware of the properties of the equipment, did not seem to have raised any objection when its auction was once again mooted earlier this year. But what is unbelievable is that, while a lower rung employee rightly managed to stall its disposal, the faculty members who constituted the present write-off committee could not see the obvious dangers of their recommendation to dispose of the gamma irradiator.

What is also curious is that the committee did not consider it necessary to consult the 82-year-old B. K. Sharma, who was the last person to work with the gamma irradiator till 1985, if the current faculty felt that adequate information on the equipment was lacking. “Nobody asked me. I am in Delhi only,” said Dr. Sharma. Speaking to The Hindu, he said it was generally known that the source was a strong one and disposing it of like that was a serious mistake.

“I don't know how this could happen. They are expected to be knowledgeable and they should have known that the source still had high leftover radioactivity after 40 years.”

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