There are ups and downs in the life of every human being and this is true of great institutions also. Small upheavals are managed with good sense of understanding and dedicated action. But when it comes to precipitous falls due to human greed, obsessive personal interests, subjugating institutional interests and absolute insensitivity to degradation and destruction, one can only watch with disbelief and utter shock that such things could happen so blatantly and openly with impunity in Indian scientific establishments. The 1994 Untold Story is the saga of an illustrious food institute under CSIR when it was handed over for management to a green horn youngster with absolutely no experience for man, material and financial management, over riding 48 of his senior colleagues who unfortunately had no God fathers at Delhi to promote their case!
The malignancy in the institution started even before because of total insensitivity of successive heads of CSIR to the special needs of a food research set up in terms of funds and personnel and through a "manipulated" selection system a person was installed as the chief scientist, "imported" from the US, his only qualification being that he belonged to the same community as that of the Head of CSIR at that time. 3 precious years of this institution were lost irretrievably because of the incompatibility of the institutional requirement and the sorry credentials of the "imported" scientists who ultimately scooted the scene unable to stand the burden of managing the institution. Unfortunately neither the Head of CSIR responsible for his transplant nor the selection committee responsible for this fiasco has been brought to book for this callous action.
Then came the year 1994. The usual charade of spotting, screening and selection started all over though there were suspicions that the process of selection could never be transparent due to vested interests and lobbyists trying to install their favorites, a la to day's Nira Radia style! True to the fears of many truly concerned food scientists the "horse' that "won" the race did a remarkable job of fobbing everybody through his gift of the gab and an inflated CV and getting installed as the chief scientist, boasting of credentials like the youngest Kannadiga scientist ever to occupy the "throne"! August 1994 is a landmark date in the history of this institution when it started its rapid slide downwards, never to recover, ending in the ignominious exit of this "scientist" due to incessant pressure from honest scientists, serious Central Vigilance Commission cases and CBI cases involving billions of rupees of unjustified and motivated purchases of redundant and defective equipment, rapping on the knuckles by Women;s Commission and SC and ST Commission and a host of other irregularities committed over a period of 17 years. To day this ravaged institute stands totally denuded, dazed and traumatized, not knowing what future it has with practically no honest and capable scientist willing to touch this "hot potato"!
Millions of rupees had been spent on projects having no relation to develop technologies for the food industry, though that is the major objective set forth by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1950 when it started functioning. Till 1994 there were about 200 technologies but this number was boosted artificially to 500 through deviously dividing many of them into separate ones, renaming some of them and adding some "bookish" technologies! Not even a single genuine full fledged food technology has been developed or delivered to the industry and all that can be shown as the out put for an investment of more than Rs 12 billion since 1994 includes glorified and ornamental arches, pet personal schemes to promote the chief scientist's image, hosting hundreds of pliable scientists with five star hospitality, non-functional and redundant equipment, hundreds of foreign jaunts for favored few, publishing glossy books irrelevant to the field of work, filing of hundreds of irrelevant patents involving huge expenditure ( no patent ever got commercialized), Equally guilty are some of the out side "scientists" associated with the management of this institute for their lackadaisical attitude, least interest in the technical programs, rubber stamping the decisions of the chief scientist while enjoying extraordinary hospitality at the expense of the institute.
Now that the disgraced chief scientist has been thrown out, every concerned citizen in this country could have hoped for a better tomorrow for the organization but the credibility of CSIR selection system, at its nadir to day, is such that no one expects any miracle to happen in installing the most suitable person for the job. If the past experience is any indication the whole charade for finding a suitable person, in all likelihood may end up with another "crony", close to the head of CSIR with no right credentials, being "enthroned" that will prolong the misery of the institute. It is time that the senior scientists who carry with them enormous responsibility to restore the past glory, stand up against CSIR and demand a deciding role for choosing the next chief. Who ever is considered for the position must have the basic qualification of a doctorate in food technology, at least 2 decades of experience in man, material and industry management, amiable disposition, leadership credentials, ability to inspire the colleagues and carry people with a distinct vision ahead. Those candidates considered must spend at least a week with the institute staff for deep understanding and interaction and a final decision regarding the choice by CSIR must be based on the majority view of the scientific staff.
Two decades have been lost irretrievably and if another wrong choice is made, the institute can as well be closed down for good. If CSIR does not have the will to revive this institute, it is better that the existing staff is transferred to other organizations doing same work under the DRDO and MFPI. Probably the property situated practically in the center of the city can be better utilized for improving the amenities of local citizens who will get some benefit at last, after mutely watching the unfortunate developments during the last 6 decades, often wondering the relevance of this institute to their daily lives!V.H.POTTY