Kasturirangan Makes Emotional Appeal to End ISRO Row

Kasturirangan Makes Emotional Appeal to End ISRO Row
The ISRO controversy refused to die down today with one of the four blacklisted scientists questioning why they had been singled out for action while a veteran space scientist sought an amicable end to the issue.

"We feel miserable. We have worked for 37 years..Average nine to ten hours a day including Sundays, and one day we have been given such a notice (barring them from government jobs)", an anguished Bhaskaranarayana, a former Scientific Secretary at ISRO, told PTI.

Eminent space scientist K Kasturirangan made a passionate appeal for an amicable end to the ISRO row for the agency's sake, drawing a parallel between the current episode and the mid-90s' "espionage case" that hit it to stress the gravity of the situation now.

"I hope that this gets defused as early as possible so that we are back on track on which we are supposed to be travelling," Kasturirangan, who headed ISRO for more than nine years till G Madhavan Nair succeeded him in 2003, told PTI.

Their remarks came amid a full-blown row over government's damning action to debar Nair and three other top scientists from holding any government posts over the controversial Antrix-Devas deal.

ISRO chief K Radhakrishan has defended the action, saying he intended to make public two reports of expert committees based on which the decision was taken.

Nair has welcomed the move to release the reports and said this should be done fast so that truth can come out.

"There is nothing related to Defence or anything. So, better to put the whole documents into public domain", he said.

Bhaskaranarayana asked why "Such an urgency and emergency only for four of us? We are not the only ones in the country".

"I am not doing any government work right now but in society what's our value?", he asked. "We feel miserable, don't get sleep in the night".

Asked why he thought the four had been "singled out" for the action, Bhaskaranarayana said, "Four of us were occupying some positions important at that time which are relating to this area (Antrix-Devas deal).

He did not want to guess whether a conspiracy had been hatched against them.

"It's very difficult to say. People like us who are scientists, we don't know politics. We do our work and get out", Bhaskaranarayana said.

Surprisingly, he quit his visiting professorship (after retirment from ISRO), six months before the two-year tenure was to come to an end, following the change of guard at the space agency with Radhakrishnan taking over from Nair.

"I had my own personal reasons (to quit before completion). When Chairman changes, some important positions have to change", he said.

Nair, who has also been barred from occupying government posts, has accused Radhakrishnan of being responsible for the punitive action because of a "personal agenda."

Several leading scientists have deprecated the action and wanted it to be withdrawn. Government has said it was prepared to hear the view of the debarred scientists.

"I am very keen that this entire matter blows over and defuses", Kasturirangan, a Planning Commission member, said.

"Like any other member of the country's scientific community, more importantly of ISRO, I would very much wish this happens."

He said there there was a parallel (to the present imbroglio) in the "spy case" when he was the agency chief.

"And we took a resolve in the organisation (at the time) that a programme (space mission) which was supposed to be launched in August, we will try to do it in July (to show) that we mean business and we did it", Kasturirangan said.

He was referring to the 1994 case where two ISRO scientists and two Indian businessmen were arrested for allegedly conspiring to sell space secrets to a Maldivian woman for money and sex. The CBI after investigation said no case was amde out against them.

Kasturirangan, who had served the space agency for 40 years, said he wants ISRO to continue its progress and maintain its pre-eminent position.

"Afterall, we have built it (ISRO) up over four decades with lot of efforts. Lot of handicaps we had to face. But we have built it up. That's the feeling I have", he said adding this issue should be quickly resolve and ISRO should get on with the task of consolidating its ambitious programmes.
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