Madhavan Nair takes on government, says ISRO gone to dogs

Former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief G. Madhavan Nair on Wednesday described as ‘improper’ the move to blacklist four scientists, including him, from a government job and said the space agency had ‘gone to the dogs’.

In a January 13 order, the Department of Space barred Nair and three others from holding any government positions over the soured deal between Antrix Corp (commercial arm of ISRO) and Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd, which was annulled.

The other three are A. Bhaskarnarayana, former scientific secretary in ISRO, K.N. Shankara, former director of ISRO Satellite Centre, and K.R. Sridharamurthi, former executive director of Antrix.

A furious Nair said he was not interested in serving any organisation under the current government and termed blacklisting him from future jobs in government or government committees as ‘totally unjust’.

Referring to the order, Nair told the media: "Even in an autocratic/military regime an opportunity would have been given to the person who has been blacklisted. No such opportunity was given to me. I am shocked at the order, which has not been served on me.

"I am yet to see the order. Once it is sent to me, I will decide on the appropriate action."

Nair, who was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1998 and Padma Vibhushan in 2009 by the Indian government, said it was an attempt to tarnish his reputation.

He also accused present ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan of inefficiency and pursuing a personal agenda.

He alleged that Radhakrishnan had been unable to live up to expectations of ISRO and was resorting to actions like blacklisting others to divert attention.

"He may not be knowing the difference between transponders and satellites. During the past two years ISRO has not announced any major project and the organisation will soon come to a grinding halt," Nair said.

"Ever since Radhakrishnan has taken over as ISRO chief, the organisation's total budgetary expenditure has come down to around 50 per cent of the allocation.

"On the other hand, during my period ISRO nearly made full utilisation of the budgetary allocation."

"ISRO has now gone to the dogs," he declared.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimated the loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs.2 lakh crore because of the Antrix-Devas deal, according to which ISRO's commercial arm was to provide 70 MHz S-Band spectrum to Devas.

Accusing Radhakrishnan for the decision on the order blacklisting order, Nair said the former was a member of Antrix board with the deal with Devas was signed.

"Radhakrishnan did not say anything at that point of time and but now says that the deal was wrong. He has misled the government on Antrix-Devas deal and killed it."

The former ISRO chief said the Suresh committee appointed by Radhakrishnan had given a clean chit for the deal.

In his view, the CAG had gone wrong in its estimation of the probable loss of revenue in the Antrix-Devas deal.

"The satellite spectrum cannot be equated with the land based spectrum as the former usage is restricted. The CAG has extrapolated the land based spectrum usage to space based one."

Radhakrishnan was not available for comment.

The blacklisting order has taken ISRO officials by surprise.

"It is unfortunate. The blacklisting not befitting the stature of the people concerned," an ISRO scientist said.

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