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Scientist resigns over blacklisting of ISRO stalwarts

Bangalore(IANS): Eminent Scientist Roddam Narasimha, the seniormost member of the Space Commission, has resigned to protest the blacklisting of former Indian space agency chairman G. Madhavan Nair and three others in connection with the Antrix-Devas spectrum deal, an ISRO official said Friday.

“As Narasimha had submitted his resignation letter directly to the Prime Minister’s Office, we do not have details on why he decided to quit. But we learn that he was perturbed over the government’s recent action against the four top space scientists, including Nair,” an official of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told IANS here on condition of anonymity.

Besides Nair, the other three space scientists are former scientific secretary A. Bhaskarnarayana, ISRO’s former satellite centre director K.N. Shankara and former Antrix Corporation executive director K.R. Sridharamurthi.

Narasimha, 78, has been associated with the Space Commission for over two decades and has been its longest-serving member.

“He has been feeling uneasy over the public humiliation of the four senior scientists as they were debarred from holding official posts after their indictment by a high-level team, which recommended action against them for procedural errors in the spectrum contract,” the official recalled.

The 11-member space panel, which is headed by ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan, also has three other eminent scientists — ISRO satellite centre director T.K. Alex, former atomic energy commission chairman R. Chidambaram and former Indian Institute Science director Goverdhan Mehta.

From the government side, principal secretary to the prime minister, the cabinet secretary and the finance secretary are the members of the panel.

“As Narasimha was one of the two-member high power committee that probed the Antrix-Devas contract, he was of the view that punitive action against the four scientists was unwarranted as it was not commensurate with the degree of omissions or commissions they might have committed in finalising the contract,” the official said.

Former cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi was the other member of the high powered committee that was constituted by the prime minister in February 2011 to inquire into the $300-million S-band spectrum (radio waves) contract between ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation and the Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia Services Ltd.

In light of the controversy, the government had annulled the contract in February 2011 invoking its sovereign right.

Narasimha remained incommunicado and was not available to comment on his sudden resignation.

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