By ET Bureau | 13 Mar, 2015, 04.00AM IST
By Manu Pubby
NEW DELHI: He wrote to the prime minister, tried to do good for a critical national project, and now he’s in trouble. One of India’s senior nuclear scientists, Pashupati Rao, who works at Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), run by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is now battling his employer for having written to the prime minister offering suggestions on streamlining the setting up of a new nuclear facility at Kota, Rajasthan. DAE comes under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
ET has reviewed the relevant correspondence between the PMO, DAE and the scientist. The PMO didn’t respond to ET’s queries on this matter. Rao did not participate in this story. DAE responded to ET’s questions.
On September 28, 2014, Rao sent his suggestions to PM’s official portal (pmindia. gov.in), which invites citizens to share ideas as well as to write to the Prime Minister.
But although Rao had communicated sensitive matters on the new nuclear complex, the PMO had sent them to Rao’s employer, DAE, marking them as ‘grievance’, and it sent a mail to Rao on January 21 this year, saying his ‘grievance’ has been disposed.
The PMO’s communication to Rao’s employers had also given the name and designation of the scientist, thus making his full identity known to his superiors. This started a process of DAE relentlessly asking for explanations from the scientist and the latter desperately seeking to explain himself. Some DAE officials who did not want to be identified told ET that Rao may face serious consequences.
Prominent whistleblower Prabhu Dandriyal, who some years ago had claimed to have exposed corruption in Defence Research & Development Organisation, filed a Right to Information application on January 27 this year with the PMO on Rao’s matter.
Dandriyal had asked what guidelines the PMO follows when dealing with ‘sensitive’ communication from government officials. He said the PMO reply that came a month later, on February 27, said the request is being processed, and details are being collected. Rao’s suggestions sent to the prime minister on the Kota project contained, apart from technical details on cutting costs, a proposal that an independent team be appointed to review the project.
But the PMO sending his suggestions as ‘grievance’ to DAE has put the top nuclear scientist in a bureaucratic nightmare.
The PMO’s communications were sent to NFC, Hyderabad, where Rao worked, and his superiors have turned the matter into staff grievance’ and have been seeking explanations from Rao. In a series of communications, Rao tried to explain that he did not have any personal grievance.
“I am a successful officer and I have been awarded with DAE group achievement award for indigenisation associated work. My feedback given to the PMO which is converted as my grievance is not aimed at any individual,” the scientist wrote in one of his attempts to explain himself. However, DAE has not relented and on February 10, Rao received a letter from the Grievance Redressal Committee that reminded him his job was limited to helping in the maintenance of NFC.
“As an organisation, we will follow the process. As he is a staff member, it is being treated as a staff grievance and is being looked into,” S Goverdhan Rao, deputy chief executive of NFC, told ET.
Dandriyal, who’s still awaiting a full reply from PMO, said, “It will be very difficult for people from the system to come out and expose corruption and inefficiency if there is no mechanism to protect them.”