Scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) had a narrow escape last week when the roof of a newly-constructed building on the campus suddenly collapsed.
The incident occurred on July 31, the day its director B N Goswami was preparing for his farewell and a seminar on climate change was under way on the campus.
Sources said the false ceiling of the building housing climate change centre collapsed suddenly, triggering a loud sound and panic among the employees. “Fortunately, no one was present in the room when the roof came down. There is usually frequent movement of scientists in the area,” said a senior employee.
IITM acting director S Krishnan said: “The roof collapsed due to water seepage following constant rain…” He confirmed that no one was injured in the incident.
The building was inaugurated on February 28 this year. It was one of the many buildings that came up during the reign of Goswami, who was recently questioned by CBI after the latter detected a recruitment scam in the institute. Three persons, including Chabi Bardhan, the then private secretary to the director, have been booked in this connection.
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Scientists are now demanding that there should be a thorough inquiry into the quality of work carried out at IITM buildings in the last few years. “This incident had clearly remained under wraps for two-three days. No newspaper has highlighted it. This clearly shows the IITM administration did not allow the news to leak out. If a tragedy has been averted, it should have become public…Why was it kept a secret,” a scientist asked.
Krishnan, however, played down the matter. “Nothing major happened. Therefore, this issue should not be blown of out of proportion. Otherwise, the public will think only bad things are happening at IITM. There are several good things that happen at IITM…these should also be highlighted,” he said.
Krishnan said M Rajivan would take over as the director of IITM. “I am serving as the acting director till Rajivan takes charge. Rajivan’s appointment is awaiting the cabinet nod, which should happen soon,” he said.
Meanwhile, Goswami, who retired on July 31, did not get the grand farewell he was apparently looking for. Scientists said though outsiders praised Goswami at his farewell, he looked tense and nervous. Goswami himself pounced on the opportunity to praise himself for helping IITM achieve progress, which many scientists did not agree to.
Though Goswami had retired four years ago, he was given two extensions.
“We are waiting for a probe into these two extensions since Goswami’s close associate Chhabi Bardhan, who is on the run, had also managed to secure two extensions,” said a scientist.
Another scientist said though Goswami indeed worked on increasing the human resource of IITM and setting up new buildings, he did little to motivate the scientists and increase their confidence. “The tragedy at climate change building symbolises the rot that has set in… It happened exactly at the same time when Goswami made the exit. The confidence of scientists at IITM has been shaken…”
Krishnan agreed that there were problems at IITM. “But these problems would be tackled…” he assured.