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Updated: February 25, 2012 02:19 IST

Upset Narasimha quits Space Commission

Divya Gandhi
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Roddam Narasimha. File photo
The Hindu Roddam Narasimha. File photo

“Action against scientists over Devas deal will demoralise the community”

Eminent aerospace scientist Roddam Narasimha has resigned as a member of the Space Commission in protest against the blacklisting of scientists involved in the controversial spectrum deal between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia Private Limited.

Professor Narasimha objected to the treatment of four scientists, including the former ISRO chief, Madhavan Nair, who were barred last month from holding government office for their role in multi-million dollar deal between the ISRO's commercial wing Antrix Corporation and Devas.

“I have requested the Prime Minister's Office to allow me to relinquish my membership of the Space Commission. But the PM has informally asked me to stay,” Professor Narasimha told The Hindu.

“I considered that the actions taken recently against certain ISRO scientists in connection with the Antrix-Devas agreements 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 later.

Professor Narasimha was part of the two-member High Powered Review Committee (the second member being Planning Commission member B.K. Chaturvedi) appointed by the Union government in February 2011 to probe flaws in the agreement. While the committee's report said that “concerns [over] cheap selling of spectrum have no basis,” it enumerated several lapses in the agreement.

For instance, it pointed out that the Space Commission and the Cabinet were not informed that the Antrix-Devas agreement was signed in January 2005 and that proposals for building satellites GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A for Devas were neither discussed with the INSAT Coordination Committee nor authorised by it.

“Most ISRO scientists have committed their professional lives to the pursuit of the extraordinary technological challenges posed by a national space programme,” his statement to the media added. “This is not to say that there have been no lapses. These have been identified in detail in the report... The report found no evidence of short-charging on the spectrum, but recommended various reforms that were now needed in our opinion to ensure that the identified lapses would not recur..”

Great loss: Nair

Responding to Professor Narasimha's resignation, Mr. Nair told The Hindu that it would be a “great loss to the Space Commission,” which he had served for over two decades. “The Space Commission needs him, and he has made a significant contribution to it.”

It was “worrying” that the Department of Space had not yet withdrawn their decision to bar the four indicted space scientists “despite the fact that the entire scientific community is expressing its displeasure at it,” Mr. Nair said.

Professor Narasimha is at present the ISRO Distinguished Professor at the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science and also professor in the Engineering Mechanics Unit at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research.

Centre's appeal

New Delhi Special Correspondent reports:

In another development, the Centre has urged Mr. Narasimha to reconsider his decision to quit the Space Commission. Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy said: “Professor Narasimha is a very renowned scientist. We hold him in very high esteem. I request him to reconsider his decision.”

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The Davos company was started by ex-scientists who retired or took voluntary retirement and he is following suit. Running away from reality will do no good for holding up reputation.

from:  K.Sugavanam
Posted on: Feb 26, 2012 at 16:26 IST

One would have thought that the issue with the ISRO-Devas deal was about national security in addition to the procedural aspects and revenue implications of the commercial deal. Nobody ever questioned the technological initiative or competencies of the scientists or the failures of scientific experiments. Why the eminent scientist did evoke such matters in this issue is rather intriguing.
Despite the two investigations it is not clear how the ISRO-Devas deal came to be executed. From what is available in the public domain, it seems that the eminent scientists strayed in to the commercial filed where they have proven themselves as not so eminent. They have to understand that when it comes to incompetency, procedural lapses and bad practices resulting in immense loss to public, the officials involved will have to be held accountable. There is no difference between an eminent scientist, an honourable minister and a layman before the rule of law.

from:  B. Baburajan
Posted on: Feb 25, 2012 at 20:53 IST

In Professor Narasimha's assessment the Antrix-Devas agreement was 'a technological initiative — not always without risk — that are the hallmark of an innovative organisation'. What a scientifically lovely description.

from:  Hilary Pais
Posted on: Feb 25, 2012 at 14:59 IST

Devas Co. has been lobbying with US senators. Now it is being done in our country too. Watch out...

from:  S. Verghese
Posted on: Feb 25, 2012 at 09:56 IST

This is a tragic development. It's high time for the government to stop catering to the political needs when handling S&T in this country.

from:  Subrahmanyam Duvvuri
Posted on: Feb 25, 2012 at 05:44 IST
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