India Today - - INSIDE -

2012 Eigh­teen years af­ter be­ing named a key ac­cused in the sen­sa­tional In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion ( ISRO) es­pi­onage case, for­mer di­rec­tor of Ad­vanced Tech­nol­ogy and Plan­ning of In­dia’s space in­sti­tute, S. Nambinarayanan, 72, feels it was an at­tempt by the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency ( CIA) to de­rail In­dia’s space pro­gramme, es­pe­cially to stall ac­qui­si­tion of so­phis­ti­cated cryo­genic en­gine tech­nol­ogy from Rus­sia. He quotes Rus­sia In Space: A Failed Fron­tier? (Springer, 2011), a book by for­mer BBC space writer Brian Har­vey, to sup­port his view. Ac­cord­ing to Har­vey, In­dia’s at­tempts at buy­ing the tech­nol­ogy ig­nor­ing US op­po­si­tion was the rea­son be­hind the cooked-up spy case. US op­po­si­tion had by then ex­tended to sanc­tions against ISRO and Glavkos­mos, the Rus­sian space firm sup­ply­ing the tech­nol­ogy. Af­ter Rus­sia backed out, it took years for ISRO to de­velop it in­dige­nously. “The scan­dal set us back by decades,” says the sci­en­tist.

All ac­cused sci­en­tists bar­ring Nambinarayanan were ex­on­er­ated by CBI in 1998. The ac­cused also in­cluded Ban­ga­lore busi­ness­men S.K. Sharma and Chan­drasekhar, who al­legedly looked af­ter busi­ness as­pects of the deal, be­sides Mariam Rasheeda and Sowzia Has­san, two Mal­di­vian women ac­cused of set­ting up honey traps. Nambinarayanan was fi­nally given a re­prieve on Septem­ber 7, two days be­fore ISRO’S PSLV launch. A Ker­ala High Court di­vi­sion bench up­held a Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion ( NHRC) di­rec­tive to the state gov­ern­ment to pay Rs 10 lakh as in­terim com­pen­sa­tion to the sci­en­tist. NHRC is­sued the or­der in 2001, af­ter he filed a case against the state gov­ern­ment in 1999. As ISRO’S launch was tele­cast live, Nambinarayanan sat at home with his TV set switched off. “I’m proud, but the agony and shame I suf­fered for 18 years has sapped me,” he says. “If this is the way In­dia treats its sci­en­tists, how can one be ex­cited?” he asks.



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