Over 300 scientists feeling “suffocated and humiliated” at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology have begun to breathe somewhat easy. The reason was last week’s CBI raid, long expected. The raid, say scientists, at least focused on a national institute “where several objectionable activities were being carried on blatantly.”
They allege corruption in recruitment process, construction work and procurement of costly equipment. As many as 22 sleuths of the anti-corruption wing of the CBI conducted searches at the IITM last week for nearly 16 hours and took into possession several files, documents and hard disks. The examination of hard disks revealed that exam papers for a recruitment examination of 2014, along with answers, were leaked.
The CBI raided IITM premises followed several complaints of malpractice and corruption in the recruitment process. They questioned director B N Goswami to collect information and documents. The raid was apparently conducted after inputs from some scientists. On Monday, CBI filed corruption cases against three employees, one of whom is Chhabi Bardhan. The CBI issued a lookout notice against Chhabi who remained untraced for three days.
Chhabi had retired from IITM at 60, which was the norm for government servants. Scientists allege Chhabi’s service term was extended twice in four years. Chhabi began as a steno, became personal assistant to the director and the latest position she held was of an LACD (Looking After Current Duties) manager.
“She was appointed LACD manager as the administrative officer and accounts manager were on leave for four months. She was handling projects involving crores of rupees…How can you appoint a retired person who has no knowledge of accounts and administration to such key positions?” asked a senior scientist, one of those who wrote the complaint to CBI. Bardhan was allegedly given two promotions in six months.
Scientists alleged that Bardhan called the shots — at the behest of Goswami in all IITM matters including administrative and financial. “In fact, director Goswami had once declared that he doesn’t know anything about the administration, that’s why Bardhan will look after it…,” a scientist said.
Demanding a thorough probe, scientists alleged that IITM practised favouritism in the last four years. “At least 50 scientists who are Bengalis have been recruited while scientists from Maharashtra and other parts have been ignored. There should be a thorough probe against the director as well…We were long feeling humiliated and uneasy. The CBI action is welcome, but half-hearted. CBI should probe the top brass…”
Scientists say Goswami retired from service, but was given an extension but “under which norm, nobody knows.” The CBI also filed cases against IITM transport cell in-charge Sanjay Hansale and an upper divisional clerk Amit Kumar. Ironically, Hansale is slated to get “the best performance award” from the Ministry of Earth Sciences on July 27.
Scientists allege that anybody who spoke in favour of IITM top brass got out-of-turn promotions, those who did not were given instant memos. “Scientists have been demeaned by putting them in departments which had nothing to do with qualification.. A scientist who had a Masters in Library Science is in the security department…”
A scientist said, “There is corruption at every level. We urge CBI to probe procurement of supercomputer and a costly Doppler Radar used for prediction of monsoon. CBI must inquire whether all standards were met when the equipment was procured.” Goswami’s cellphone was switched off. A Newsline team was denied permission to enter IITM premises to meet Goswami.