CSIR functioning sans chief for 12 months

Candidates selected thrice, but final selection was scuttled every time

India’s oldest and most well known research council with a string of national laboratories under its control, has completed 12 months without a head.

In the same period,three science ministers were in the office and a candidate was selected three times.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is literally headless at the moment as the tenure of P S Ahuja, who was holding the additional responsibility of CSIR director general, ended on December 31. The Prime Minister’s Office did not grant him an extension.

A suitable candidate was identified three times in the last one year but the final selection was scuttled each time, sources told Deccan Herald. The science minister’s chair was occupied by S Jaipal Reddy, Jitendra Singh and Harsh Vardhan in those 12 months.

The post of CSIR director general was advertised yet again on December 24 seeking nomination from the public by January 10, 2015.

The last advertisement appeared a week after a conflict of interest charge surfaced against R A Mashelkar, former director general and one of the members of the last selection panel.  The panel picked up biologist Rajesh Gokhale, director of Institute for Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi. Gokhale, however, is also the co-founder of a company named Vyom Biosciences and Mashelkar is the chairman of the board of directors of the firm.

Mashelkar was not available to comment on the controversy. In the absence of a full time director general, not only  are CSIR projects moving in an unguided manner, but several laboratories do not have a full time director either.

After previous chief S K Brahmachari’s retirement on December 31, 2013, a selection panel proposed the name of Suresh Das as the next chief of the Rs 3,700-crore research council. But he could not be appointed due to objections from then minister, Jaipal Reddy.

After keeping the process hanging for three months, the search committee was reconstituted and tasked to find out Brahmachari’s replacement. The panel once again proposed the name of Das, who heads National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram.

As Das was not selected, then department of science and technology secretary T Ramasami was asked to officiate.

After Ramasami’s retirement on April 30, CSIR was being run by Ahuja as his additional charge – he was also the director of a CSIR laboratory in Palampur – and department of biotechnology secretary K Vijayraghavan, who functions as secretary in the department of scientific and industrial research.

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