Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sacking of DRDO Chief Avinash Chander: 5 questions, no clear answers

NO ONE can question the legality of DRDO chief Avinash Chander’s sacking 16 months before his tenure ends. After all, the scientist in question is already a retired officer currently serving on a contract. Also, the decision was taken by none other than PM-headed Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) on the recommendation of the country’s defence minister. Yet, the way the government handled the Chander’s ouster has raised a number of questions. BoI picks out 5 such questions:

1. Avinash Chander on Tuesday had no clue that he was sacked by the government. Why could not the government take the officer into confidence? Why should a scientist of repute know from the media queries that he was sacked?
2. For most part of Tuesday evening, there were “rumours” that Chander’s contract was terminated. On Wednesday morning, some newspapers reported about his sacking while others reported about the “rumour”. One newspaper quoted the defence ministry spokesperson saying that he had no knowledge about the sacking. Why could not the government issue a statement in a straight-forward manner to end such a confusion right at the beginning?
3. On Wednesday, none other than defence minister Manohar Parrikar said in a free and frank manner that it was he who had recommended Chander’s sacking (by the way, both Chander and Parrikar are engineers from IIT). Fair enough, all confusions got over when Parrikar himself said so. It can be easily understood that the ACC accepted the defence minister’s suggestion. But the minister then gave the logic saying that “such senior positions should not be on contract”. Does not it go against his own government which appointed a retired IAS officer as the CEO of NITI Aayog on a contract, only a few days ago?
4. What could be understood from the defence minister’s interaction with the press on Wednesday that there was no case (including that of vigilance) against Chander. In that case, why did the government fail to handle the sacking of the architect of India’s Agni series of ballistic missile systems, in a more matured manner? Is n’t the sacking saga giving a wrong signal to the scientific community at large?
5. Finally, the ACC’s order about Chander’s termination of contract with effect from January 31, 2015, was first placed in the DoPT’s official website on Tuesday, only to be (mysteriously?) withdrawn sometime later, fuelling more confusion. Why was it withdrawn from the website when the order was passed by none other than ACC itself? And, will DoPT place the order back in its website (it’s missing till Wednesday night)?

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