A tale of 2 DAE Institutes
While TIFR grappled with salary payment issues, BARC was headless for six months
The TIFR and BARC, two of the country’s top notch research institutes, under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) hit the headlines this week for not the best of reasons.
If the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Colaba, bungled on the issue of payment of salary to its employees for the month of February, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay, which has been headless for nearly six months, finally got a Director in Ajai Kumar Mohanty.
An innocuous notice by the Registrar of TIFR on Wednesday stated that due to insufficient funds, all staff members and students/post doctorate students of the institution, it’s centres and field stations, will be paid 50 per cent of the net salary for the month of February immediately and the remaining will be paid when funds are available. This notice kicked up a massive row, especially on social media and news websites.
As the news spread, historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted, ‘TIFR in a perilous state. The perilous State of one of India’s finest scientific research institute’. With industrialist Ratan Tata, Bharat Ratna CNR Rao and space scientist K Kasturirangan among many luminaries on its board, the Institute management swung into action to save embarrassment and announced on Thursday night that the full salary would be deposited in every employee account.
This has since been confirmed by employees to BusinessLine. They said that such a strange situation had never happened before.Interestingly, this is the first time in its over 70 year history that such a mess has happened with respect to salaries, according to old timers at TIFR.
The TIFR was started in 1945 by Homi Bhabha with the support of the Tata Group. It has centres in Pune, Bengaluru and Hyderabad with some field stations. It has over 3,000 staff across its centres. It is funded by the DAE and is an autonomous Institute with deemed University status awarding masters, post graduate and doctorate degrees. It has contributed immensely in the areas of physics, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, biology and computer sciences, and has global recognition for its work.
However, there are fund crunch issues affecting some of the autonomous and aided Institutes under the DAE. These include, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata; Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai; Institute of Plasma Research, Gandhinagar; Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad etc.
Similarly, the Hyderabad campus of the TIFR has been taking considerable time to take shape in the 200 acre land allocated to it by the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy(Cong-I) government in Gachibowli. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone in 2009. For years, the Institute has been operating out of rented buildings.
The development has raised serious queries on the paucity of funds for research and the role of the government in supporting scientific institutions. There have also been reports of a fund crunch in the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has been forced to raise funds from external sources with a tight budgetary allocation.
The Government on Wednesday night appointed Ajit Kumar Mohanty as the Director of BARC. Since September 20, 2018, the crucial DAE establishment, which drives the nuclear energy programmes has been headless.
Mohanty specialises in fundamental physics and has been involved in global projects like the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, Geneva etc. The 59-year-old Mohanty gets a 3 year term and has been Director of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata.
The previous Director, KN Vyas was elevated to Secretary, DAE & Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission. Interestingly, Vyas took over from his predecessor Sekhar Basu in Vienna, the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, where both were attending an event. it was an unprecedented event in the history of DAE.