CSIR removes NEERI head Rakesh Kumar as Director

Rakesh Kumar. Photo:  

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has divested Rakesh Kumar, Director, National Environment Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI) in Nagpur of his post and transferred him to its headquarters in Delhi. Sources confirmed to The Hindu that this was after the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) ordered an inquiry into allegations of corruption against Mr. Kumar and other employees at the institute. The allegations were levelled by a former employee of NEERI.

NEERI is one of the CSIR’s most important institutes and works closely with the government as a consultant to multiple environment related projects and gives expert opinion in several disputes involving government and private companies on matters of air, water and land pollution. It also works in technology developments such making “green fire crackers”, under the directives of the Supreme Court to improve Delhi’s air quality and specialised air purifiers.

Based on the CVC’s directions, a three-member fact-finding commission was constituted by the CSIR Director General’s office in August 2020. Mr. Kumar through a petition in the Delhi High Court had challenged the formation of such a commission, primarily on the grounds that it didn’t consist of members with the required technical expertise.

The commission’s findings aren’t known but based on it the CSIR leadership, that includes Minister of Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan and the Prime Minister, decreed that Mr. Kumar cease to be Director and report to Delhi. The orders were passed on Friday evening and Mr. Kumar is expected to report on Monday. S. Chandrashekhar, Director, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, has been given additional charge of the organisation, the CSIR’s orders note.

“The fact-finding commission’s findings are a prelude to the investigation,” sources familiar with proceedings told The Hindu.

Shekhar Mande, Director General, CSIR told The Hindu that Mr. Kumar’s transfer “was in public interest” though he didn’t discuss reasons for the transfer. Mr. Kumar, in a text message to The Hindu, confirmed he’d been divested of the charge but didn’t respond to additional questions.

Documents filed with the Delhi High Court detailing the case suggest that in Dec 2019, a whistleblower complaint to the CVC alleged that Mr. Kumar led a “syndicate of influential corrupt officials” and had formed active and shell companies to ‘grab’ consultancy projects.

Mr. Kumar has denied these allegations and attributed them to a disgruntled employee who was transferred out of the CSIR-NEERI. This person, he alleged, had created a “nexus of suppliers” and indulged in multiple instances of misconduct. Mr. Kumar, it is learnt, has withdrawn his petition challenging the constitution of the commission but said he reserves the right to challenge, if any, its findings. The High Court dismissed the petition on April 7.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 5:57:23 PM |

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