NEW DELHI: Several Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) scientists have alleged harassment and victimisation by their seniors and have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his immediate intervention in the issue.
Interesting is the case of scientist Shashi Kant, who was allegedly harassed by senior officials. His immediate supervisor, B V Shah, admitted in a letter dated December 31, 2014, to BARC chief Sekhar Basu that Kant’s performance reports were manipulated following the directives of senior officials.
Kant, an IIT BHU graduate who joined BARC in 1983, is known for his expertise in nuclear fuel reprocessing. He has alleged that he was mentally tortured for being upright and brilliant in his job.
The harassment allegedly began when he tried to access the performance report copies through RTI. Kant was transferred to Kalpakkam, prompting him to move the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Mumbai bench, which stayed the BARC’s decision. In his appeal, Kant produced Shah’s letter, putting the BARC in the dock.
“My assessment (of Shashi Kant) was under strong influence of seniors,” wrote Shah in his letter, adding that Kant continued to get low grading (A3) on the insistence of senior officials.
Kant, whose hearing is scheduled this Friday, has claimed that on the pretext of confidentiality, he was not allowed to publish his work, which was subsequently claimed by superiors and favoured colleagues, and his promotions were delayed.
A scientist has claimed that harassment affected his family life. B N Singh has accused supervisor P K Wattal of carrying on with his tirade against brilliant scientists after getting extensions post retirement. Singh alleged that Wattal directed the scientists to discharge effluents into the sea with available dilution, which was much higher than the permissible limit.
“This action would have led to serious violation of technical specifications... if some NGOs came to know through periodic sampling of seawater... it will be very difficult for BARC to face the consequences,” Singh wrote, adding that Wattal had procured sub-standard equipment that had not been used so far. Singh said he was transferred after exposing the irregularities.
What is startling from the complaints and documents sent to the PM is the claims made by BARC scientists that senior officials took advantage of the ‘secrecy’ and ‘sensitive nature of work’ to harass and deny them their dues.
Among the documents sent to Modi is a copy of a letter from scientist Ashutosh Acharya, written to Wattal on November 28, 2013, in which he states many scientists’ careers were allegedly nuked by Wattal.
“Your actions are not only against me but against many others also. Sometime in May or June 2010, P K Narayan, as head, BETDD, had shown me unassessed ACRs for 2007-08 & 2008-09 of Shashi Kant and Narayan and had mentioned that everyone was amazed with his quantum and quality of work output... there are many such facts about him and others,” said Acharya’s letter to Wattal, now with the PMO.
The PMO was told through the letters that there were violations of Modi’s directives.
Wattal, who allegedly harassed the scientists, was given two extensions of two years each after retirement. Finally in February 2015, he was given the Raja Ramanna Fellowship for another five years.
Modi had directed government departments to avoid extensions and to promote young scientists. The BARC, however, denied harassment of scientists in its reply to Express’s queries. It said that the BARC had over 4,200 scientists and only three complained and generalisation based on three cases was inappropriate. It did not answer if a panel was formed to probe the complaints.
“The officers who have made the complaints alleging harassment were not able to substantiate the same. Some officers, who could not be promoted because their performance was below the required level, are trying to distract attention by making baseless and irrelevant allegations of harassment and victimisation,” the BARC said.
It added that allegations levelled by Dr D N Yadav, a scientist in the Nuclear Recycle Group of BARC, are baseless and therefore no action was initiated against any senior officer. The BARC said Yadav habitually sent grievances and had done so on social media, to the BARC’s vigilance section and to the PM.
“His case has been referred to the Department for further action. As regards B N Singh, he had made representations for review of APAR grading for 2012-13. It was examined by the competent authority and it upgraded his grading,” the BARC said.
Interestingly, this admission made it clear that Singh’s grading was corrected only after the complaint.
The BARC refused to comment on this Express’s query on Kant, citing that his case was sub judice.
It, however, said the allegations against Wattal had been examined and found that they were only due to personal vengeance of some officers who were not satisfied with the APAR grading awarded to them.
■ In January, a PIL was filed in Bombay High Court seeking a probe into suicides and unnatural deaths of scientists. The PIL said, “Scientific community has been plagued by suicides, unexplained deaths and sabotage [that] have gone underreported.”
■ In July 2014, the government told Parliament that nine nuclear scientists committed suicide in 2009-2013 in atomic power stations and other research centres; three suicides were reported from Nuclear Power Corporation during the same period.