Friday, March 23, 2007

Gajendragadkar Report on ICAR, 1972: Chapter 7 - The Findings

CHAPTER VII

FINDINGS ON THE STATEMENTS AND

ALLEGATIONS MADE BY LATE DR. V. H. SHAH

IN HIS LETTER DATED 5-5-1972

The reference made in the notings on the file regard­ing the fact that Dr. De had been placed at No. 2 in the panel prepared by the selection committee constituted in making selection to the post of Head of the Division of Agronomy in 1966 has not only been quoted out of context but the Secretary IGAR in his note dated 19-8-71 recorded on page 7 of F. 38-18/71-Instt. I, has gone out of his way in mentioning facts about the proceedings which do not appear in its record. The Secretary I CAR has stated as follows :

"In the open competition Dr. Bains was selected by a duly constituted Selection Committee consisting of very eminent scientists. I was myself present as Mem­ber-Secretary of this Committee. Dr. De was placed No. 2 by the Selection Committee. In fact, the Comm­ittee members felt that both Dr. Bains and Dr. De were outstanding candidates for this post and it was a very difficult choice before them as to who should be placed No. 1. Taking into consideration all the factors and the fact that Dr. Bains was the senior person out of the two, he was placed No. 1 and Dr. De No. 2."

It is a matter of deep regret that the Secretary of the ICAR should have made such an elaborate note ent­irely in favour of Dr. De though the contemporaneous record of the proceedings of the Selection Committee do not bear out of these statements. It is thus clear that the Secretary has expressed his impressions about the proceedings of the Committee as to the scientific merits of the candi­dates on the basis of his memory.

The policy followed by the ICAR in making ad hoc appointments was that, as far as possible, they should be avoided. The Committee was told that in the case of ad hoc appointments to the post of Heads of "Division, ICAR itself had taken the stand that it would not be proper to appoint Heads in ad hoc manner. Thus the appointment of Dr. De as ad hoc Head of the Division of Agronomy, IARI, gave rise to the apprehension that he was being favoured and groomed for ultimate selection as Head of the Division.

It is common ground—and if one examines Dr. De's academic qualifications—there is obviously no doubt that Dr. De did not satisfy the essential requirements prescribed by sub-clause (i) of clause (A) of the advertisement issued on 10th May, 1971. He did not have even the B. Sc. Degree in Agriculture and his M. Sc. degree in Agriculture from the Banaras Hindu University included Crop Physiology and its specialisation, and not Agronomy. Similarly, his Ph. D. from the same University was in respect of Crop Physiology and not Agronomy. This position has not been and cannot be disputed. Therefore, the answer to the ques­tion which we have posed at the outset as to whether Dr. De possessed the basic qualifications prescribed for the post of Head of the Division of Agronomy must be in the negative.

It is significant that on this occasion, Dr. M. S. Swaminathan who was the Director of the IARI, had also made a note on 19-6-66 on the same file on page 6/N, and in this note Dr. Swaminathan mentioned names of the candidates who should be called for the interview, but did not include Dr. De's name in that list. It would not be unreasonable to infer that Dr. Swaminathan took the view-that Dr. De did not at that time satisfy the essential quali­fications prescribed for the post and so he did not include his name in the list of the persons who should be called for interview. We are inclined to attach considerable importance to Dr. Swaminathan's note. Despite Dr. Kanwar's note and the omission of Dr. De's name from Dr. Swaminathan's list, the Director-General, Dr. B. P. Pal, ordered that, Dr. De should be called for interview.

In retrospect, it would be permissible to observe that it must have been anticipated in 1966, that to call Dr. De for the interview for the post of the Head of the Divi­sion of Agronomy, notwithstanding the fact that he did not possess the essential qualifications of the post may, in future, help him and it does appear that it did help him because in 1971, when a vacancy occurred, he was called for the interview and, in fact, appointed. The Secretary, ICAR, also cited this selection while supporting the case of Dr. De for ad hoc appointment to this post.

There is another consideration to which we ought to refer in dealing with the question as to whether Dr. De's appointment as Head of the Division of Agronomy was not open to serious objection. We have already referred to the essential qualifications prescribed in the advertisement published for the post and have indicated Dr. De's academic qualifications. In this connection it is important to bear in mind that at the IARI there are different branches of Agronomy, Physiology and Soil Science. In other words, in organising the general Division of Agronomy, IARI have distinguished between agronomy in the narrow sense of the word and physiology and Soil Science. This makes the essential qualifications prescribed by the advertisement most significant and that corroborates the conclusion that Dr. De was not eligible for being called for the interview for the post of Head of the Division of Agronomy much less for the appointment.

We would also like to make some observations regard­ing the manner in which selection to this post was rushed through. Interview for the post of Head of the Division of Agronomy was held on 8-9-71. Some senior scientists of the IARI had approached the Secretary (Agri.) on 30-8-71 and one of the points which they raised before him was that Dr. De did not possess M. Sc. or Ph. D. degree in Agronomy. Secretary (Agri.) in his minute recorded on 30th August, 1971 suggested to Secretary, ICAR, that in order to avoid future complications, all the doubtful points he set at rest before holding the interview. The interview was to be held on 8-9-71 and the position was explained by the D. G., ICAR, on 7-9-71 in his note to Secretary (Agri.) which was seen by him on 9-9-71. The Minister for Agriculture in another minute, recorded on 18-9-71, stated as follows:

"I have received one more copy of similar representations before the interview. I had called for the file. I am surprised that before those representations were disposed of, the selection has been finalised."

It is surprising that the letter of appointment was issued to him on the same day, which though not unusual, does tend to lend support to the apprehension that the matter was being dealt with at the top speed. Shri T. P. Singh in his deposition before the Committee reasserted his dissatisfaction with the manner in which the appointment was rushed through.

In the light of all the relevant facts to which the Committee has given its anxious consideration the Committee has come to the conclusion that there are some aspects pertaining to the appointment of Dr. De as Head of the Division of Agronomy which must be regarded as un­satisfactory and as therefore casting doubts on the propriety of this appointment. The Committee, therefore, concludes that the appointment of Dr. De as Head of the Division of Agronomy was not properly made.

The Committee appointed a Panel of Advisers to analyse the data.on the following four claims:

(i) a new strain of maize with its protein content doubled and having nutritious value like milk;

(ii) Sharbati Sonora wheat having protein and lysine contents comparable to milk; (iii) a new seed of bajra that yields 32 maunds per acre; (iv) a variety of Sabarmati rice which was having a real flavour and was very good in cooking.

Baisakhi Moong

Baisakhi Moong is a variety of short duration pulse developed from type 44 Moong of U. P. Institute of Agri­cultural Research, Kanpur by Dr. L. M. Jaswani. It was released in 1971. It is grown in May-June as one of the relay crops. Its harvesting period is shorter than other pulses. Its average yield in IARI experiments was claimed as 10-4 quintals/hectare. The Panel observes:

"Thus, it seems that the results of Baisakhi Moong in experiments conducted in IARI and Pantnagar did not prove in the National Demonstrations, except in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, and also in the farmer's fields."

"Hence, there appears to be some substance in Dr. Shah's allegations that the Baisakhi Moong did not prove successful in National Demonstrations. It must be a common experience that some experimental results do not prove in the fields; that indeed is the reason for conducting National Demonstrations. Under the circumstances, it seems that further experimental demonstration work was necessary before the varieties were released. However, we note that Baisakhi Moong was recommended as a short duration summer crop on fields which might otherwise have remained fallow." We agree with the views of the advisers.

A New Strain of Maize The Panel has made the following observation on this matter:

"It is obvious therefore -that there has been a certain confusion in public mind regarding the claims of the high lysine maize because of a failure to see the difference between protein content and lysine content. In this, the scientists of the I CAR are not entirely free of blame. The subject also appears to be somewhat over-advertised." We agree with these observations of the Panel.

In our view, experiments on nutritional value of the maize should have been done by competent nutritionists. Proper controls were not taken. We suggest that the nutri­tion value of any seed should be tested in a Nutrition Laboratory or by competent nutritionists.

Sharbati Sonora Wheat

This new variety of wheat was produced by x-ray irradiation by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan and Dr. Verghese from Sonora-64 which was obtained from Mexico. It was released in 1967 by CVRC. It is amber in colour as compared to Sonora-64 which is red. It has been claimed that it has higher protein and lysine contents as compared to its parent variety, Sonora-64. The analysis of protein and lysine contents were made in the genetics laboratory of IARI by Dr. Austin. After the claim was made that the lysine content of Sharbati Sonora is higher than that of Sonora-64, various laboratories in the world repeated this analysis. The C.Y.M.M.A.T. in Mexico, which is the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, grew this wheat in Mexico and found that it did not have higher lysine content as compared to Sonora-64. This fact was brought to the notice of agricultural scientists at the All India Wheat Workshop held at Indore in August, 1969. It was then resolved in this meeting that the lysine content should be verified in the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, and Nutrition Research laboratory, Mysore. It is very surprising and indeed regrettable that no wheat of this variety was sent during the past three years to these laboratories for analysis. On the advice of the Panel of Advisers, we then obtained Sharbati Sonora from the Director of IARI and sent it to these two laboratories and also to the Department of Bio-chemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for the analysis of lysine content. The data from these three laboratories which were received within about three weeks are as follows:

gm. lysine/100g protein

g/100g wheat (undried)

Hyderabad

Mysore

Bangalore

2.48

2.99

3.17

0.373

0.45

0.478

The Panel observes as follows:

"Thus, the results received from the Hyderabad Institute are in conformity with several other results earlier quoted. The results are somewhat higher but nowhere near 4.61 per cent as mentioned by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan." (The same panel also made some more interesting and indicating observations:- Vide Appendix IX, Report of the Panel of Advisers, pages 152, 153)

As more instances of allegations of unscientific attitudes, behaviour and practices in IARI, we cite the following. These come from the submissions made by three scientists of the Bio-chemistry Division of IARI. Dr. T. S. Raman challenges the findings in the Ph. D. thesis of Dr. L. S. Mehta, a Biochemist in the Nuclear Research Laboratory. Dr. Raman categorically asserts that certain data contained in Dr. Mehta's thesis "could not have been ob­tained by methods he has claimed to have been used." Dr. Y. P. Gupta who apparently has himself worked on the lysine content of different varieties of wheat, states that in the half-yearly report for period ending October 1968, he had reported the lysine content of Sonora-64 to be 3-26%' but that the Head of the Division deliberately cha­nged it to 2-26% so that the Sharabati Sonora might appear in a more favourable light. He seriously disputes the data on the protein and lysine content of Sharabati Sonora published by Dr. Swaminathan in the November 1967 issue of the journal "Food Industries". Dr. K. G. Sikka states that four varieties of Arhar (cajanus) -have been recently released which he finds contain certain toxic sub­stance causing blindness among rats. Within the short time available to us, it has not been possible for us to examine these allegations. We do not also think that it would be a fruitful course for us to pursue. It is obvious that these are very serious allegations. Whether they are substantiated by careful examination, the fact remains that there are many junior scientists in IARI who, rightly or wrongly, feel that they are not free to publish a scientific finding because it does not suit somebody higher up or that in fact unscien­tific data are being passed on to the higher authorities in return of favours and promotions. The existence of this feeling is most regrettable because it creates the conditions for breeding of unscientific behaviour and practices if they do not already exist. Mere refutation of the allegations will not therefore do.

We are reluctant to recommend any specific measures to correct the situation in the present case because, unfortunately, the phenomenon is not confind to ICAR and its institutions. Barring minor exceptions, it pervades the entire scientific and academic community in the country. At the root of it is the greed for bureaucratic power and love of a comfortable life which afflicts this class. In this matter, there is no distinction between the juniors and the seniors; the juniors are intellectually as corrupt as are their seniors. Politicization of academic and scientific life has made the matter worse. We wish to emphasize this general situation because, without reference to it, we think it will be unjust to pass a judgement or suggest specific measures in the particular case before the IGAR Inquiry Committee.

WORKING CONDITIONS OF SCIENTISTS

A scientist can do his research best if he is free to work and can express his views freely and fearlessly. Dr. Shah's main allegation, in his letter, is that the working conditions for scientists are not conducive to research and as we have pointed out in Chapter II, a majority of scientists who gave statements before the Committee, those who met the members of the Committee during their visits to the Institute and those who answered the quiestionnaire have expressed the same view. Some of the major complaints regarding the working conditions in the Divisions are given below:—

(i) The Head of the Division does not give facilities for work. He favours those who work for him.

(ii) There is no academic atmosphere as there is no free discussion on, research projects and results obtained.

(iii) Senior scientists insert their names in research papers even though they do not do the actual work.

(iv) Purchase of chemicals, glassware etc. take inordi­nate delay.

(v) Scientists are not allowed to use certain equipments which are available in the Division or in the Insti­tute. For example, the equipments available in the Division of Biochemistry of IARI are not shared by all the colleagues of the Division. The Nuclear Research Laboratory has several equpiments which scientists of other Divisions normally cannot use. We feel that most of these complaints are genuine and they should be remedied. The working conditions for scientists should be made attractive so that a scientist would be encouraged to engage himself in research rather than engage himself in unacademic activities. So the conditions in a Division should be set right first.

The Secretariat of the Committee examined 879 files of appointment made to the ICAR and its Institutes. Out of this number, about 31 were identified as prima facie revealing irregularities relatively of a serious character. The Secretariat then sent these cases to the DG, ICAR inviting comments. After the comments were received and considered, the cases in question were screened again and finally 14 instances have been chosen, as illustrative of some of the grave irregularities involved. Even so, the Committee wishes to emphasise the fact that in preparation of this appendix, the Committee has been concerned only with the irregularities to which it has drawn attention and not with the merits of the candidates selected. The Committee is, therefore, anxious that anything contained in this appendix should not be taken to cast any aspersion on the merits of the selections made, or reflections on the candidates concerned.

i. Appointment to the post of Dean and Joint Director, IARI in the grade of Rs. 1600-2000.

ii. Appointment to the post of Project Coordinator, Animal Breeding and as Head of the Animal Genetics. IVRI.

in. Appointment to the post of Deputy Director, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Manda-pam Camp (Rs. 1100-1400).

iv. Appointment to the post of Assistant Director-General (Animal Science Education).

v. Ad hoc appointment to the post of Director-Central Coconut Research Station, Kasargod (Rs. 700-1250).

vi. Appointment to the post of Project Coordinator (Respiratory Diseases of Poultry) in IVRI (Rs. 1300-1600).

vii. Appointment to the post of Deputy Chief Artist in ICAR Headquarters (Rs. 700-1250).

viii. Appointment to the post of Project Coordinator (Forage Crops) IGFRI Jhansi (Rs. 1300-1600).

ix. Appoinment to the post of Editor (Magazine) in the scale of Rs. 700-1250.

x. Appointment of Executive-cum-Welfare Officer, ICAR (Rs. 350-900).

xi. Ad hoc appointment to the post of Senior Soil Conservation Officer, Dehra Dun and to the post of Chief Scientist, (Soil Conservation and coordinator), Dehra Dun.

xii. Appointment of Biometrician (System Analysis) at IARI (Rs.700-1250).

xiii. Appointments to the posts of Adminstrative Officers/Assistant Administrative Officers.

xiv. Appointment by transfer of Head of the Station, Regional Research Station, Kanpur. (Regarding XIII, the following observations by the Committee are important :)

1. Though a period of six years has passed since the Research Institute were taken over by the ICAR, suitable recruitment rules for these posts have not yet been framed.

2. In contravention of the provision of the Bye-laws, where the rules were to be made with the approval of the President, criteria have been changed at the Secretary's level without obtaining his approval.12 employees, who were short of about one year of the required experience as laid down in the criteria, were called for interview by the Director of Recruitment on the ground that they formed border line cases. Out of these 5 employees were finally selected. 2 employees, who fell short of the required experience by 2 years and whose names did not even figure in the screening statement compiled by the office for calling the candidates for interview, were called for interview and selected.

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