Facing a CBI probe over “disproportionate assets”, IIT Goa Director Dr B K Mishra says no director of any premier institute in India will dare take disciplinary action against colleagues going by his fate.
Mishra, who served as director at the Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (IMMT), Bhubaneswar, till March this year, told The Indian Express he suspects an “organised engineered campaign by a bunch of disgruntled former junior colleagues” behind the CBI FIR against him of stocking assets worth Rs 1.4 crore, filed on June 21.
The FIR accuses Mishra of amassing movable and immovable assets, and that he was worth only Rs 3.79 lakh in 2005, the year he joined the IMMT.
In a press note soon after the raid at Mishra’s Goa home, the CBI said it had recovered “incriminating documents”. CBI spokesperson R K Gaur told The Indian Express, “The case is in the initial stage of investigation. The CBI will make all efforts to carry out a fair, professional and expeditious investigation.”
Says Mishra, “Our case is that we were and are worth much more. It’s a fact that my wealth is much more than what the allegation is. You expect me and my wife, having worked in the US and later at IIT and in academic consultancy for years, to have only Rs 3.79 lakh after two decades? I have saved and invested every penny to make my wealth. What does this raid show? Is it a crime to generate wealth? Are we as academics not supposed to earn and tend to our children’s future? Let me tell you, none of us works for charity or philanthropy…. I am still nursing bank loans for the properties I have invested in.”
Anu shows a picture of the money seized from the house. “That is Rs 1,820 to be exact. The CBI allowed me to take a picture of the cash they recovered from our premises.” Talking about photographs carried by other newspapers giving the impression of piles of seized notes, the 51-year-old adds, “It took us some time to convince the CBI that we didn’t even have a locker.”
The family has given copies of their declaration before the Lokpal, along with appointment letter of Mishra as IIT Director and their property papers to the CBI. “Before I got selected as Director IIT, my file went till the PMO. Vigilance checks were also done. Then how did this happen?” Mishra says. “I approached my seniors and they called to say the minister concerned (HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar) has been apprised.”
“When such events happen, academicians like me have no choice but to take offers abroad and leave. The whole idea is the system should protect us when we take actions benefiting the academia,” Mishra adds.
The 58-year-old did his Masters in Detroit and PhD. in Utah and worked in the US before he was offered the post of assistant professor in IIT Kanpur in 2005. During his sabbatical years since, he has taught in the US as well as held a post in England.
According to him, he has been facing harassment since he took disciplinary measures against certain colleagues. “In the first instance, a scientist was transferred to Kolkata. He wanted to become the Head of Department of Advanced Materials at the IMMT. Under him, a junior scientist had filed a case of sexual harassment, that was pushed under the carpet. He also faced several other complaints. He wrote the first bunch of letters, which went till the PMO,” says Mishra.
The second case he talks about is of a technician who wanted to have his grade improved to benefit from a Pay Commission slab. “It was not possible for the organisation to help him…. The third was the case of a stenographer who kept pushing me for favours to get him academic recognition. When that didn’t take shape, he wrote anonymous letters to 36 academic directors. This went on for a year and I finally wrote to my seniors at the CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research), New Delhi, to help stop this harassment.”
Mishra said he discovered that the IMMT had a “culture of such letters from a few disgruntled bunch… with no evidence to back it”.
Mishra says the series of anonymous letters made it difficult for him to run the laboratory at the IMMT.
The IMMT, that had issued a press statement concerning the Mishra case stating there were no financial irregularities at the institute, said it wouldn’t comment on the CBI allegation as it was “a personal matter”.
Since the CBI raid on June 21, Mishra says, he has been getting many phone calls. “Some of my peers laugh, saying ‘Mishra, you only made a crore after all this while’. Even my former students make more wealth than me. But in other calls, academics from across the fraternity, IITians, scientists and others, say they are afraid as they feel the CBI is after academics. One IIT scientist called to ask if the properties he purchased will also be probed.”
While praising the CBI officers as “totally professional”, he adds, “Our point is, probe us, but at least before you book based on an anonymous letter, give us a chance, read our documents, study our investments and property.”
The CBI has denied that it started a probe based on “an anonymous letter”. Gaur said, “The alleged comment relating to investigation of said case is denied.”
His daughter who is studying medicine and planning to pursue studies in the US is now unsure if she wants to return, Mishra adds. “The trauma is deep. We are a family of scholars and we didn’t know how to handle this.”
Mishra’s plans for IIT Goa include a tie-up with a German exchange programme and visiting the US to get professors and students for specialised programmes. “I wonder now what they must think of me. This news will stick.”