Nair slams government, ISRO chief for action against him

Bangalore/Chennai/New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) In an unprecedented action in the annals of Indian space odyssey, the central government blacklisted top scientist G. Madhavan Nair from official jobs following the controversial deal with Devas Multimedia but the former space agency head hit back, blaming his successor K. Radhakrishnan for the action.

The government’s action and the blistering attack of Nair, the man who led the successful launch of India’s first Lunar probe in 2008, on Radhakrishnan sent shockwaves among the scientists and staff at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) main office in Bangalore and at other centres in the country.

Along with Nair, three other scientists — former scientific secretary A. Bhaskarnarayana, former satellite centre director K.N. Shankara and former Antrix executive director K.R. Sridharamurthi — have also been barred from holding any government position or being on official committees over the deal ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix signed with Devas for allotting the scarce S-band spectrum (air waves).

The deal, signed during Nair’s stewardship of ISRO, was cancelled in February last year on the ground that it would have caused the government loss of billions of rupees.

Besides blaming Radhakrishnan, who succeeded him as ISRO head in 2009, Nair said the space agency had ‘gone to the dogs’ and asked the government whether he was ‘worse than a terrorist’ for blacklisting him.

The government’s move came in for sharp attack from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also which wanted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take action against the then minister of state in his office, Prithviraj Chavan, now Maharashtra chief minister, as the space department was handled by him.

Atomic Energy and Space Science have always been under the direct charge of prime ministers.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters in New Delhi that holding some officials guilty for the deal with Devas and ‘blacklisting them will serve very limited purpose. What about the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). Prithviraj Chavan used to chair all the meetings of the space commission,’ he said.

Manmohan Singh must explain why ‘no action has been taken against people responsible in his office. After all, he is the cabinet minister in charge of space department,’ Javedekar said.

However, V. Narayanswamy, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, defended the government, saying ‘accountability will be fixed’.

He told reporters in New Delhi that Nair can appeal against the government’s action.

In Bangalore, Nair told IANS that he and other scientists have been blacklisted without enquiry or an opportunity to be heard.

‘I have sent a representation to the prime minister, bringing to his notice that the decision to bar me was taken without any enquiry or giving me an opportunity to be heard,’ Nair told IANS.

‘I still have the respect for the Indian president and the prime minister. I am sure they will look into the issue,’ Nair said.

‘I have not spoken on the Antrix-Devas deal for the past two years mainly to protect the image of ISRO as the organisation is more important,’ he maintained.

Accusing ISRO chairman Radhakrishnan of inefficiency, Nair said the space agency had gone to ‘dogs’ under the present dispensation.

‘Radhakrishnan has not tarnished my image but the whole of ISRO community,’ a furious Nair asserted.

ISRO, however, chose to keep mum and declined to comment on Nair’s outburst against the space agency and its chairman Radhakrishnan.