BALASORE: Project Director of Agni-V Rajesh Kumar Gupta, who was dropped from the project in a ‘humiliating’ manner a day after successful launch of the missile, was also subjected to humiliation during the first test launch in April 2012. Though he had all through guided the mission team as the founding director of the project, credit was purportedly given to Agni-IV Project Director Tessy Thomas at that time leading to huge discontentment among a section of scientists.
After receiving the secret letter signed by outgoing chief of DRDO Avinash Chander stating that he was no longer involved in the missile project, Gupta, in a letter to Director of Hyderabad-based Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), has warned that both Chander and Director General (Missiles and Strategic Systems) VG Sekaran would be held responsible if any of his family members takes any drastic step for the mental harassment.
Recalling the first test launch of Agni-V on April 19, 2012, a defence scientist on condition of anonymity said the top brass of DRDO had then created a hype in such a manner that many national media organisations mistook Thomas as the project director of the missile.
“Special interviews were carried terming her the scientist behind the successful mission while Gupta was cleverly sidelined. Top scientists of the organisation also issued statements appreciating her contribution. She was even termed Agni Putri,” the scientist said.
However, Chander had clarified that Gupta was the Project Director but did not forget to praise Thomas stating that she played a major role in the success of Agni-V. “She was in charge of mission design and guidance systems,” Chander had said.
In fact, Chander had courted controversy for allegedly promoting Thomas by overlooking the contribution of a number of senior scientists.
A former DRDO employee and Dehradun-based RTI activist Prabhu Dandriyal said Chander had allegedly favoured Thomas’ husband Saroj Kumar Patel, a retired Commodore of Indian Navy, and created a tailor-made post to appoint him as Director, Quality, Reliability and Safety (QRS) at DRDO headquarters, New Delhi in March last year.
Both Chander and Thomas could not be contacted for comments.