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What ails ISRO? An insider's report

February 03, 2012 22:22 IST

The murky controversy raging over damning debar on former Indian Space Research Organisation Chief and secretary of Department of Space G Madhavan Nair and three other scientists is blamed on its current chief Dr K Radhakrishnan for misleading the government in the Antrix-Devas deal probe for a sadistic revenge.

Many scientists have come out in protest at damning of the finest space scientists in this manner, while Dr R G Nadadur, a 1980 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of Karnataka cadre who got a voluntary retirement early last month, has brought out how Nair became a victim of the "massive witch-hunt" mounted by his successor Radhakrishnan who took over from him in 2009.

He says he was totally devastated and demoralised by the guns turned on him in September and October "when I was painted as one of the chief architects of the so-called scam."

His only crime was that he had tried to persuade the ISRO chief, who is also secretary of DOS to desist from "a massive witch-hunt to 'fix' all those who did not support him in his earlier years in ISRO."

While Nadadur, who served the organisation for over nine years, exited quietly without making any public issue with Radhakrishnan, two emails he sent out to his batch-mates and friends on January 6 and 7 show the rotten state of affairs.

"I planned to exit gracefully rather than taking the secretary head-on in a clash, which would have brought greater odium to DOS/ISRO and demoralised everyone concerned," he explains.

He states in the emails, shared by a batch-mate with this correspondent, that perhaps he is the only IAS officer "who has seen/known/worked with all the persons, who have headed DOS/ISRO," and hence the request not to make the mistake of concluding from the unhappy incident he has put behind that DOS/ISRO is full of such persons.

He points out that "I really love the organisation, and I still do."

"It remains one of India's greatest organisations and has great scientists, technologists and others, who are working very hard on several programmes and projects. What is needed is the right kind of leadership. If that is done, these women and men are capable of making us even more proud, in the years to come, with their achievements. In such a case, we can be prepared to see our countryfolk on the Moon and Mars, our own space shuttle and several other technological breakthroughs, all in our own lifetime," he affirms. 

He, however, wonders if many would have the atmosphere necessary to remain immersed in research if Radhakrishnan's 'mischiefs'' are not nailed and he is thrown out. He recalls how he was tried to be implicated in the so-called Antrix-Devas "scam" that left him with a very deep scar of hurt "as I had slogged day-and-night for the organisation, and handled almost every matter in DOS/ISRO, technical and non-technical. 

Nadadur, or simply Raghu as he is known in the IAS circles, accuses Radhakrishnan misusing his position on the inquiry committee set up by the prime minister to probe the S-band spectrum deal "to present certain decisions that were taken by his predecessor as a 'scam' and further engage in a massive witch-hunt to 'fix' all those who did not support him in his years in ISRO.

"He (Radhakrishnan) left ISRO at some stage but was rehabilitated by his predecessor and placed in a position to succeed him. Now, this ungrateful person is trying to 'fix' his predecessor.

"Since I had worked with the previous Secretary as his JS and CVO for 5 years, I kept pointing out to the present secretary that there was no mala fide in the actions of his predecessor and that he was just a go-getter and flamboyant.  I feel, in retrospect, that the present secretary may not have liked my advice."

Raghu writes, "The inquiry provided the present secretary with a golden opportunity of 'fixing' his predecessor and several others, including me. I was supposed to have been derelict in discharging my duty, of not exercising due diligence and also of misleading the Union Cabinet."

He heaves a sigh of relief that he got out of this with name and reputation intact after a lot of explaining and with the help from some seniors, colleagues and well-wishers in important offices in Delhi.

The same Radhakrishnan who pursued the line of "mala fide" of his predecessor Nair, according to Raghu's email, "has been forced to admit, in a written report, that there was no 'mala fide' on the part of anyone."  

"This has, apparently, been approved at the highest level in Government. So, there is no 'scam'!"

Raghu writes that after this very unsavoury episode that left him totally devastated and demoralised that he decided not to serve in the government any more and called it a day."  He concludes his email with the following advice:

"I hear that some batch-mates have been approached to become AS and FA in Department of Space. My advise is that with this kind of person at the helm, it may be best to keep away, even if one is tempted to stay in Bangalore. There is grave danger in this post, with this cantankerous, unstable, moody and vindictive person," he writes.

"He is indecisive to boot. He also seems to have a great inferiority complex when it comes to IAS officers and would like to show his power by ruining their careers and happiness. My predecessor, G Balachandran was forced out of the department. I have become the second victim. The next person may also have a similar or worse fate, so long as this person stays on as Secretary. So, all prospective candidates, beware. You are now forewarned," he concludes.

A correspondent in New Delhi