It seems that this Singh can do no wrong.

Whether it is the 2- G scam, or the broad daylight Commonwealth Games heist, Prime Minister Manmohan Sinhg is blemish- free. You see, he was only a disinterested onlooker watching the proceedings from his ringside seat in the Prime Ministers Office. Why he cannot be blamed, he would tell you, is because he does nothing, not even oversee the working of the Government of which he is the formal head. So he cannot be held accountable for anything. Period. The latest case in point of Singh insisting that he is Mr Teflon is the extraordinary decision to blacklist four top scientists for the ISRO, or space, scam. It should be noted that Singh as prime minister headed the Space Department at the time. And he still does.

Then Minister of State in the PMO, Prithviraj Chavan, was handling the day- to- day affairs of the Space Department at the time of the signing of the scandalous deal. Since then Chavan has graduated to the chief ministerial alt39alt39alt39alt39alt39alt39alt39alt39gaddialt39alt39 in Mumbai. So, the only ones who must be blamed are the scientists.

Led by the former ISRO chief G Madhvan Nair, three others, namely, A Bhaskaranarayana, former Scientific Secretary in ISRO, K R Sridharmurthi, former managing director of Antrix, the marketing arm of ISRO, and K N Shankara, former director in ISRO Satellite Centre, were blacklisted by the Government. However, if the Government thought that that would be the end of the matter, it thought it wrong. Leading figures in the space department have come forward to criticize the move and to lend support to Madhavan Nair and others. It is a measure of the strong disapproval felt by the scientific community that even its leading lights who grace the Prime Ministers Scientific Advisory Council have publicly faulted the decision to blacklist the four. Quite clearly, there is a feeling that the four are being alt39alt39alt39alt39fixedalt39 for someone elses fault. Pained by the decision, someone posed the question to the Government: ” This is the same Madhavan Nari who you gave Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. Are we to believe that these people who have done the nation proud were actually corrupt?” Clearly, the decision has angered the scientific community as a whole.

It is significant that before blacklisting the former ISRO chief and three of his senior colleagues, the Government gave them no opportunity to explain their role, if any, in the controversial deal.

There was little doubt that the S- band spectrum was sought to be sold on the cheap to the private company, Devas. The alleged losses to the Government reportedly ran into tens of thousands of crores. Yet, no evidence was cited to pin down the responsibility on the four scientists who are now being sought to be disgraced publicly. Notably, even that 26/ 11 butcher, Ajmal Kasab, was given a fair trial. And is not administered the death sentence till he has exhausted all avenues of appeal available to him under the justice system. And here, you up and pronounce the four top scientists guilty without first asking them to explain their conduct. This is neither fair nor just. It smacks of arrogance and worse. It is moot whether in a democratic system the prime ministers word can be alt39alt39alt39alt39alt39alt39alt39alt39thealt39alt39 law. Nobody, not even the Prime Minister, can bypass the due process. Now, it is almost certain that the four condemned scientists would knock at the door of the courts to clear their names. And they cannot be faulted for so doing. A government which is prone to act arbitrarily and without being mindful of the rights of its people can always be relied upon to create problems for itself. Just as it allowed its non- decision over the age of the army chief to linger on for so long that it pushed him to seek redress from the apex court, it may have forced Madhavan Nair and three of his colleagues to go to court. It does not make a pretty picture, does it?

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