A false case that delayed India’s cryogenic project

Thiruvananthapuram:  In the early 1990s, S. Nambi Narayanan was working to develop cryogenic technology when things went for a toss and he was arrested on false espionage charges, which according to him was an “international conspiracy” to delay the project.

“The aim was to demoralise ISRO and to delay the process (of making cryogenic engine) we were in at that time for at least two years, as this was worth billions of dollars in the commercial market,” Narayanan said here.

He was heading the cryogenic division in 1991, and in 1994 his life changed for the worse after he was arrested on espionage charges along with another top official of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), two Maldivian women and a businessman.

Narayanan, was busy working as project director for the development of cryogenic technology, for putting the country into an elite group of nations in the world, but thanks to an insensitive journalism, and misgivings of the Kerala Police, everything went into disarray.

Recalling on why all this happened and how he became a victim, Narayanan who is currently busy giving interviews to the media, most of which had come out with juicy and spicy stories soon after he was named an accused and arrested said that this was “an international conspiracy”.

“While a few journalists reported properly, many out of ignorance went to the extend of writing that through this espionage case, the country’s space programme has been completely spoiled as we sold our findings to foreigners,” he said.

“Incidentally the sad thing is that what they wrote that was sold, is still not developed in our country, even after many many years,” said Narayanan.

As things stand as of now, said Narayana that his efforts of developing a cryogenic engine still continues but the country is yet to develop one capable for flight.

“In 1996 after the case was dismissed I was given another assignment and I retired in 2001,” said Narayanan who is now busy in his battle seeking justice.

The first round of success came Friday when a division bench of the Kerala High Court upheld the order of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ordering compensation of Rs. one million to be paid to him.

“See this is just the interim relief because in my main case, a civil suit of Rs 10. million compensation was filed by me, which is being heard in a court here. What came yesterday (Friday) is just the interim relief after I approached the NHRC and that itself took 11 years,” said the veteran space scientist.

On why the ISRO did not react to this case despite people like K. Kasturirangan (former head of ISRO) knowing the truth, he told a TV channel that, “its my guess that may be they waited for the mess to clear up and also the ISRO scientists does not have any political clout and when they finally realised, it was too late”.

On the future, he said he has lost his professional career for ever and what happened Friday (at the court) was one more step forward for his fight for justice.

“I am happy and proud of the judiciary. Its a war for justice and not for money. All the cases that I fought on this, I have won and I will win again also. My life has been shattered. See, I am not at fault and if I am , let me be taken to task, if not those who created this should be,” remarked Narayanan.

Incidentally, this case at its height saw the beginning of the downfall of then chief minister K. Karunakaran who lost his chair.

And now all eyes are on the Chief Minister Oomen Chandy to see if the Rs. one million compensation would be paid by the state government or would it ask the officials who were responsible for it to pay up.

Narayanan also added that it was only the Intelligence Bureau and the Kerala Police which zeroed down on him, while the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in their report found out the misgivings of the Kerala Police and the Research and Analysis Wing after an initial study, went away.
By Sanu George/IANS

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