`They asked me to with­draw my court case'

Down to Earth - - RESEARCH ETHICS -

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)

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