Despite a CBI raid at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) exposing its functioning the Ministry of Earth Sciences appears in no hurry to initiate measures “to restore faith of scientists” at the nation’s premier weather research institute, where the “atmosphere has been vitiated”. On Sunday, the Ministry said it would not initiate any action until CBI investigation is over.
“We are aware of the CBI raid at IITM…we will initiate action after the CBI completes its investigation,” Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, told Pune Newsline over phone from New Delhi.
Nayak explained the apparent lack of hurry to set things right at IITM —where allegations of favouritism and corruption in recruitment and promotions and in procurement of costly equipment surfaced openly for the first time — to procedural compulsions. “There is a procedure. We cannot act unless the CBI investigation is complete. Once we get a copy of the CBI report, we will initiate necessary action,” he said.
When asked whether he was aware that a scientist will now head the accounts department, and that technicians have become scientists, and civil and mechanical engineers received training in atmospheric science at IITM, Nayak said, “Ye sub chhoti chhoti batein hain…(these are all small things).”
When Pune Newsline sought to know whether he was keeping a tab on happenings at IITM and media reports highlighting the goings-on, Nayak said,”Yes, I am…the director is keeping me updated…You are free to write…”
Director BN Goswami, who refused to answer calls, is himself under fire from several scientists. Some scientists have written to the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the CBI to probe his actions and the decisions taken at IITM.
When asked whether he received any written complaint from scientists, Nayak said, “Yes, we received complaints, but we found names of complainants were not true.”
Scientists at the institute said they were waiting for Nayak to take steps so that “the vitiated atmosphere turns conducive for quality research in weather at a time when weather predictions have come under fire.”
Several scientists and other staff said they have been writing to the Ministry, but it has had no effect. It is only after they wrote to CBI that the goings-on at the institute were exposed.
Scientists expressed surprise as to how Goswami, who retired four years back and his steno Chhabi Bardhan, who retired four years back, were given two extensions. However, Nayak said, “Such extensions are possible in central government service…” Scientists said they never heard about any such extensions.
As many as 22 sleuths of the anti-corruption wing of CBI conducted searches at IITM for nearly 16 hours and took into possession files, documents and hard disks.
Examination of hard disks revealed that exam papers for a recruitment examination of 2014, along with answers, were leaked. The CBI raided IITM following complaints of malpractice and corruption in recruitment.
CBI has filed corruption cases against three employees, including Chhabi Bardhan. The CBI has issued a lookout notice against Chhabi who is untraced. “Bardhan was dictating terms at IITM. At the behest of the director,” scientists alleged.
Bardhan had last week moved an anticipatory bail plea in the court of special judge DM Deshmukh. The judge rejected her bail plea.
Fearing arrest, Bardhan moved the court through her lawyer SK Jain. CBI sealed her flat at Vrindavan Society in Bhosalenagar.
After her anticipatory plea was rejected, CBI was expected to arrest her. Neither her lawyer nor CBI officials are forthcoming over the issue. It is not clear whether Bardhan will surrender before the CBI. When contacted, CBI superintendent of police Vidya Kulkarni said she was on long leave and only additional superintendent of police will reply to the question.
He said the case is being handled by CBI from Delhi and he was in no position to comment.