A complaint has been filed with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) over allegations of irregularities in recruiting Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman and secretary, Dept of Space (DoS), Dr K Sivan Sivan’s son S Sidharth in ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) in Valiamala, Thiruvananthapuram.
The CVC subsequently registered the complaint, setting into motion a preliminary process, according to media reports.
The complaint alleges Sidharth’s recruitment was not just a case of conflict of interest, but also a case of “favouritism and conspiracy to benefit the secretary DoS and Chairman ISRO (Sivan) and his son”. The complainant has named LPSC director Dr V Narayanan who allegedly showed haste in the appointment anticipating a transfer to Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre. Dr Narayanan is a rocket propulsion expert who joined ISRO in 1984 and has been LPSC director since January 2018.
The petition also states Dr Narayanan was in a hurry to fill the post as Dr Sivan was then supposed to retire on January 14 (his tenure was subsequently extended).
It is also alleged Sidharth’s appointment was not taken up in the general recruitment through ISRO’s Central Recruitment Board, which conducts screening, written test and interview. Instead, only an interview was held in the case of Sidharth.
The Department of Space, ISRO and LPSC had issued an advertisement for post number 738 of Scientist Engineer ‘SC’ [Level 10 (pay matrix: Rs 56,100 - Rs 1,77,500)] at LPSC units located at Valiamala, Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru. The advertisement mentioned the required qualification as “BE/BTech or equivalent in Electronics & Communication Engineering + ME/MTech or equivalent in VLSI (Very Large-Scale Integration) & Embedded Systems''.
However, the complaint pointed out that there is no requirement of an MTech in VLSI in LPSC and that no one has been recruited so far with that qualification in LPSC. The MTech prerequisite was inserted deliberately to “perfectly match” that of Sidharth, who is an MTech. “This gives rise to the apprehension that the advertisement was tailor-made for the particular candidate,” it stated.
In the merit list of three candidates put out by LPSC, Sidharth is ranked second, and the list stands valid till January 13, 2022.
While Dr Sivan refrained from making any comments, his office in Bengaluru acknowledged that a complaint had been filed. But the office clarified that all due processes had been followed in Sidharth’s recruitment, and nothing had been compromised.
“Respective (ISRO) centres conduct interviews. There are three ways of recruiting. One is through ISRO’s Central Recruitment Board, which is for the general streams. The second is through campus recruitment. The third includes respective ISRO centres looking for candidates with specialisation. Being an MTech, Sidharth’s application was screened by an appropriate committee, after which he attended the interview. All due processes have been followed,” the ISRO Chairman’s office said.
Dr Narayanan has so far not made any comments even as the complaint registered by the CVC is reportedly “under process”.