“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.
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.”