NEW DELHI—India's scientific community is turning up the heat on the government over its controversial sanctions of four former officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for alleged missteps in a satellite deal. In the latest protest, Roddam Narasimha, an aerospace scientist at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, resigned on 24 February from the Space Commission, India's top space policy body. Narasimha wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the "actions taken against the scientists could demoralize the Indian Space Research Organization's scientific community, and adversely affect its ability to take the kind of technological initiatives—not always without risk—that are the hallmark of an innovative organization."
Last month the government banned four scientists—including former ISRO head G. Madhavan Nair, who oversaw India's successful Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe in 2008—from holding a government position for the rest of their lives. The unprecedented punishment cited "procedural lapses" during negotiations to lease two communication satellites to a private company. The other three are K. R. Sridhara Murthi, former head of Antrix Corporation in Bangalore; K. N. Shankara, former head of ISRO's Satellite Center in Bangalore; and A. Bhaskaranarayana, former director of ISRO's satellite communication programs. The action against Nair and the others was intended as "a warning to scientists," V. Narayanasamy, minister of state in the Prime Minister's office, told Manorama Online earlier this month. Nair and his colleagues have denied wrongdoing.
Senior Indian scientists blast the ban. It "has done a lot of damage to morale. … Nobody will want to take risks or do anything bold or out of the box," says Anil Kakodkar, a nuclear engineer and former chair of India's Atomic Energy Commission. "Top scientists who have served the country well have just been dumped and thrown out like garbage," adds Singh's science adviser, C. N. R. Rao, a chemist at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre. He calls it "an insult to the Indian scientific community."