`They asked me to withdraw my court case'
PARDHA SARADHI is tenacious. This mildmannered professor at the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Delhi (DU) has exposed some extraordinary cases of misdemeanour by its senior professors. As a result, Saradhi claims, he has been harassed by the university which suspended him and tried to tarnish his reputation by charging him with academic lapses and sexual misconduct. Saradhi is a recipient of the National Bioscience Award and says he was the first in India to develop transgenic mustard but his scientific achievements have been overshadowed by his high-profile case against former vicechancellor Deepak Pental. In an interview to LATHA JISHNU, Saradhi talks about what drives him. Excerpts
Why this plagiarism case against Deepak Pental? He is not the co-author of the paper you have problems with.
He certified the work by a member of his research team KVSK Prasad, who was also once my PhD student. I wrote a letter to Pental in 2004 pointing how Prasad had simply taken away data from my research project to his Young Scientist project. I also said the use of codA gene and related materials was a hazard and that it could have contaminated other material. It was a courteous letter but he did not respond. Instead, the harassment started.
So the case against Pental is actually about not following biosafety rules?
Biosafety is an important issue. Pental is fully aware of the guidelines. It is obvious from the certificate issued by Pental that Prasad was using either codA GM transgenic lines produced by my research team or fresh codA GM transgenic lines of Indian mustard generated by his own team. So he needs to get permission from ISBC and RCGM for getting seed of codA transgenic lines transferred from my lab to his. As the group leader he should have signed an MoU with me.
What has upset you the most?
The Department of Science and Technology's refusal to give me the required informa- tion when I put in an RTI application. In fact, in 2011 they asked me to withdraw my court case instead of taking action. I am also upset by the signature campaign in support of Pental that misrepresents the case and maligns me.
What is this campaign?
It has been initiated by one of the three members of the inquiry committee which gave a clean chit to Pental without following the rules. They have been spreading false information about why Pental was remanded in judicial custody. It was certainly not for plagiarism, but for charges that include unethical/illegal use of GM Indian mustard (with codA gene) in his lab disregarding biosafety guidelines, theft of codA transgenic lines of Indian mustard and its use. (Complete interview on www.downtoearth.org.in)