IARI joins long list of headless institutes

India’s oldest farm research institute, Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), is among the new entrants in a long list of science establishments which operate without a full-time head at the moment.

While the Narendra Modi government failed to fill up several key posts, internal bickering made the IARI director appointment even more complicated as one of the senior scientists challenged the process before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).

When the Agriculture Scientist Recruitment Board advertised for the post of the director of the IARI, Delhi, last year, many senior scientists responded. But about two weeks ago, when call letters were issued, one eligible candidate was left out.

The scientist, who is a national professor and has expertise in plant biotechnology, moved a petition to the CAT, challenging the ASRB decision. The CAT asked the board to interview the scientist.

Following the CAT intervention, a nine-member ASRB panel including two veteran scientist-cum-administrators from outside the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) system interviewed seven candidates, including the disgruntled professor.

The ASRB has been asked by the tribunal not to disclose the outcome of the interview till the matter is disposed off. The CAT has posted the matter for hearing on March 18, when the ASRB decision is likely to be known.

But reliable sources told Deccan Herald that the selection panel could not find anybody worthy of heading the hundred-year-old institute, which is being headed by an acting director at the moment.
If the selection process has to start afresh, it would take another 3-6 months, said an IARI scientist. The premiere institute adds to the list of research establishments that operate without a regular boss.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, too, is headless as the government failed to find out a timely replacement for V M Katoch, who retired in February. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is without a regular director general since January 2014 and the top slot in Defence Research and Development Organisation is vacant since January, 2015, after the unceremonious exit of Avinash Chander. More than 10 CSIR laboratories are without a director.

Physicist Sandip Trivedi, who was chosen as the director of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai has given up his directorship after the Prime Minister’s Office disapproved his selection. Trivedi was selected by a search panel headed by Bharat Ratna and eminent scientist C N R Rao.

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