Revisiting ISRO spy case
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

Revisiting ISRO spy case

This case is only the tip of the iceberg exposing the cause for country’s staggering industrial growth and scientific research

Last Tuesday, I was reading the Point of View column of T.J.S. George titled “Why ISRO ‘Spy Case’ Is Important” and I was moved to tears both for ISRO Scientist Nambi Narayanan and my own country India. I was just left wondering for whom the bell tolls and said to myself, ‘Cry the beloved country.’

I was sharing my feeling with a friend and he suggested that I take a look at the book titled ‘The First Refuge of Scoundrels – Politics In Modern India’ by  T.J.S. George. It contains articles written by him for The New Sunday Express and the very first article ‘Good Men Can Only Cry’ describes our politicians and the charlatanism in politics quite eloquently.

He mentions  Nani A. Palkhivala, the renowned Constitutional lawyer who in despair had suggested, “less freedom and more discipline” for our politicians and the bureaucracy.  Palkhivala had said that our democracy had been hijacked by opportunists and crooks adding, “we have a first class Constitution and a third class leadership.” He said this in early 80s but is very true even today.

He had bemoaned the then prevailing situation in the country saying, “This is a country where Kings have given up their thrones and gone into the jungle to uphold their dharma. Where have their values gone?”

George answers this question saying that those who put up criminals as candidates and those who build-up wealth by looting the nation are the culprits. The loot continues and I guess that is the reason why ISRO Scientist Nambi Narayanan had to suffer at the hands of our politicians and bureaucrats.

The provocation for George to write last Tuesday’s article, perhaps, was the book by Nambi Narayanan, who pioneered cryogenic technology in India at great personal risk and suffered for it. Vikram Sarabhai was working on space research and rocketry. It was a time when Russia supplied cryogenic engines but refused to supply spare parts and part with that technology at a critical time, if my memory serves me right. It was then India under Sarabhai took it as a challenge to develop its own cryogenic engine and Nambi Narayanan was the best brain working towards its developments. Like US, Russia too refused to part with or share the technology with India.

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As we know, the US and Russia, along with other nuclear powers, were all out to sabotage and scuttle any effort by other countries (including Germany and Japan), specially the third world country like India, from developing its own nuclear and rocketry capabilities. It is strange Homi Bhabha, who pioneered nuclear research, died in an air crash in Switzerland at the young age of 56 and Sarabhai died in a Trivandrum hotel room, also at the young age of 52, for ‘no apparent reason’ in 1971.

George writes, “In 1994, when ISRO was close to mastering cryogenic technology on its own after having been obstructed by the US, Nambi Narayanan and his colleague Sasikumar were arrested, tortured and virtually destroyed by Kerala Police in the notorious ISRO spy case.” After four long years of hell, the Supreme Court declared him and others as innocent.

No one suspected the hand of CIA or KGB in the arrest and torture of Nambi Narayanan and others, but the manner this notorious spy case unfolded clearly reveals the vulnerability of Indian politicians and bureaucrats to venality. And what is the price India paid? It has put the country’s cryogenic engine development on hold for more than 19 years. Of course, we finally succeeded.

If one wants to know why despite Nehru’s vision to develop India industrially by setting up such major heavy industries, like steel, ITI, HMT and HAL, no expected progress could be made, the answer is that our politicians, bureaucrats and even (some) technicians were corrupt.

Many years ago in the 70s my friend working in HAL told me the foreign countries that manufacture small planes and helicopters were bribing our people at HAL to stall the production. I did not believe him then. But when I read a book by Palkhivala titled “We, the People: India, the Largest Democracy” I thought my friend could be right. When Palkhivala was the Indian Ambassador in America he went to Cessna Aircraft factory in Kansas State where he met a couple of Indian technicians who had earlier worked in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL). The Cessna factory employed 10,000 workers and produced 5,000 planes a year. In contrast HAL employed 35,000 workers and produced 100 planes (of poor quality) a year.

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Poor Palkhivala innocently writes that the reason for poor performance at HAL was due to “absence of competition at Bengaluru etc.” I think there was a mistake here in composing the text. It must have been “presence of corruption”! Wonder why it did not occur to him that the reason could be corruption. And India was happily buying its military requirements of fighter planes, helicopters and also civil aeroplanes and small planes from America, Russia and other Western countries with kickbacks filling the pockets of our politicians and bureaucrats who kept going to Swiss   Banks smiling.

The provocation for me to write on this subject was a news item about a case filed in the Supreme Court by Nambi Narayanan to seek his pound of flesh, now that he has been discharged in the case and cleared of the stigma of being a spy. Nambi Narayanan has made a plea to the Supreme Court (after the Division Bench of the Kerala High Court refused his plea) to prosecute his tormentors in the Police service who investigated the case. The Supreme Court will also consider his request for the compensation to be paid.

George concluded his article lamenting that “It is sickening to learn that a Scientist working on a nationally important project became a victim of cunning politicians (a Congress leader …… used the ISRO case to get rid of the then Congress Chief Minister), and scheming Police Officers (a DGP used the case to malign another officer who stood in the way of his promotion). Nambi Narayanan lost his career, but recovered his honour. May his tribe increase and may he succeed in getting just dessert for those Police tormentors found guilty by the CBI itself.”

Now, we will wait for the Judgement Day.

e-mail: [email protected]

July 13, 2018

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Revisiting ISRO spy case”

  1. Ex-ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan (seen in the photograph at the left greeting Russian scientists) has alleged that CIA plot implicated him in a case and has sought a reexamination of the case in the national interest.
    In an excerpt of the book named ‘Ormakalude Bhramanapatham’ (Orbit of memories) published on IEMalayalam.com on Wednesday, Narayanan paints the spy case as a conspiracy against him and the ISRO through the collective efforts of agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in connivance with Indian police and intelligence officers.

    Nambi Narayanan was once accused of selling vital secrets related to Indian space technology.
    Nambi Narayanan, a former scientist of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has come out with a tell-all autobiography in which he talks about his years at the space agency and especially the difficult time he underwent when he was falsely implicated in the infamous 1994 spy case. Narayanan, who was accused of selling vital secrets associated with Indian space technology in 1994, was later acquitted by a CBI court and the Supreme Court in 1998. He spent a total of 50 days in jail along with fellow scientist D Sasikumar and four others.

    In an excerpt of the book said to be his autobiography, Narayanan paints the spy case as a conspiracy against him and the ISRO through the collective efforts of agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in connivance with Indian police and intelligence officers. The case was produced out of thin air in order to stall India’s rapid advancements in the development of an indigenous cryogenic rocket engine, he alleges in the book.

    Nambi Narayanan said at an ISRO’s programme.
    “My investigation showed that the spy case was the illegitimate child of the US-French agencies with the intention of burying me and the ISRO in the cemetery,” Narayanan writes.

    “The spy case saw a Maldivian woman being framed as a spy to carry secrets that never existed by police officials, politicians and journalists who knowingly or unknowingly fell for the plot of the CIA.”

    In June this year, former chief minister and CPM veteran VS Achuthanandan had released a book written by Siby Mathews, who headed the investigation into the ISRO spy case. In Narayanan’s excerpt, he talks about his meeting with Mathews after he was acquitted in the case.

    “He (Mathews) told me that he was unknowingly pushed into the case by then-DGP Madhusudanan. He told me he did not intentionally try to trouble me,” wrote Narayanan in the book.

    Narayanan has sought re-investigation into the spy case to uncover the people behind it.It is high time the international conspiracy to stall India’s rapid strides in science and technology technology is unearthed throughly to ensure that our own corrupt politicians and police officials who brazenly supported the crime are stringently punished as per the law.

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