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Former ISRO Scientist: ‘International conspiracy’ halted India’s leap into space

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Bengaluru: The indigenous cryogenic engine which was put on the pedestal last Friday for the third time by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) in a ground test proved its mettle. This huge step towards a geostationary satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) in December could prove to be the country’s first heavy-lift version in this field.

This was the third and final successful ground test of the indigenous cryogenic engine by ISRO.

The GSLV-Mark-III can carry a payload of four tons, about twice the capacity of ISRO’s existing rockets. The C-20 engine that was “hot tested” for 635 seconds at the Liquid Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu will be used to power the rocket’s upper stage.

But S Nambinarayanan, former Project director of ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems, says this milestone could have been crossed 12 years ago had his project not been derailed by an “international conspiracy” to halt India’s leap into space.

It was Nambinarayanan who introduced the liquid fuel rocket technology in India in the 1980s. The Vikas engine used today by all ISRO launch vehicles, including the one that took Chandrayaan-1 to the moon in 2008 and Mangalyaan, was the result of two decades of work by his team with assistance from France.

And, as project director of the newly-launched indigenous cryogenic engine project, he plunged headlong into developing the propulsion systems for ISRO’s GSLV and interplanetary missions. With this in mind, in 1991, he signed a contract on behalf of ISRO with the Russian space agency Glavkosmos for the technology transfer of a cryogenic propulsion system.

But things did not turn out as planned. Glavkosmos, in 1993, reneged under pressure from the United States. And Nambinarayanan was arrested on November 1994 on charges of selling India’s “rocket secrets to Pakistan through two Maldivian women ‘spies’ leading to his suspension from his job.” With Nambinarayanan out of the scene, the cryogenic engine development suffered.

“Cancellation of the contract and my arrest were part of an agenda of the US, accomplished by conniving with officials of our Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Kerala Police,” Nambinarayanan told this correspondent in an email. As an evidence of conspiracy, he refers to the dismissal of an IB officer of the rank of the joint director in 1996 for his alleged links with the CIA.

In fact, in 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), which took up the “ISRO spy case” found it to be false and fabricated by the IB and the Kerala Police- a finding endorsed by the Supreme Court in April 1998 and by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in September 1999.

The NHRC also passed strictures against the Kerala government for having “tarnished (Nambinarayanan’s) long and distinguished career in space research apart from the physical and mental torture to which he and his family were subjected.”

Nambinarayanan says he managed to obtain the supplies and documents relating to the cryogenic engine from Russia’s Glavkosmos before it cancelled the contract and arranged a private airline (Ural Aviation) to transport the cargo to India in four shipments.

“With this, I hoped ISRO could master the cryogenic technology,” he said. But his suspension from ISRO’s cryogenics systems project put an end to that.

“Had there been no conspiracy, ISRO would have achieved space power status long back, maybe as early as 2000,” Nambinarayanan told reporters. “Today, we are not only delayed by more than 12 years but have also lost several billion dollars worth of launch business.”

The rocket scientist feels sad that while the CBI concluded that the ISRO “spy case” was false and fabricated, nobody bothered to unearth the motives behind it or punish those officers of the IB and the Kerala Police who were charged with negligence and dereliction of duty by CBI.

“The government should constitute a special investigation team to find out the total truth in the ISRO spy case,” he said.

While ISRO is celebrating last week’s successful “hot test” of its new cryogenic engine, Nambinarayanan, 75, who started this work two decades ago, is now spending much of his time fighting court cases, to get Rs 1 crore (Over $145,000) in damages he had claimed from the state and central governments.

He is also seeking action against police officers who framed him and others in a false case that harmed India’s space program. (K.S. Jayaraman, IANS)

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  • Ravi

    What a loss for the nation ! Some people would sell their mother for money. Look at the gravity of the crime committed against Shri Nambinarayan! Those responsible should be punished and their ill gotten wealth to be confiscated.

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Number of Students Opting for Science or Tech Are On Rise in India

India leads the world in the number of students getting bachelors degrees in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

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Sydney-based University of New South Wales (UNSW) has instituted 61 scholarships to attract
Representational Image, Pixabay

India leads the world in the number of students getting bachelors degrees in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Of about 5 million students who received their bachelor’s degrees in 2012 in STEM subjects worldwide, 29.2 per cent were from India, UNCTAD’s Technology and Innovation Report 2018 released on Tuesday said.

China came next with 26 per cent of the STEM graduates. The EU accounted for 9.5 per cent of STEM graduates that year and the US for 6 per cent, the report said.

The report used statistics from 2012 and said the total number of bachelors-equivalent degrees awarded that year was 20 million.

The wide gulf in the numbers of students graduating in STEM explains why the US relies on such a large number of foreigners, especially Indians, to fill its technology workforce needs.

“Many countries are witnessing skills shortages in the fields of digital technologies and many employers report difficulties in filling high-skill vacancies,” UNCTAD said, citing a 2016 worldwide survey by ManpowerGroup on talent shortage that found that 40 per cent of employers reported difficulties in filling positions.

So, if your child is preparing for IIT-JEE or NEET from any of the reputed centres like Aakash Institute, as a parent, it's your responsibility to help your child find the right study time
study, representational image, Pixabay

According to India’s University Grants Commission, 10.7 million students were studying science, engineering/technology or computer science in 2016-17, although it did not give a breakdown between undergraduate and postgraduate levels or by year of study.

They made up 36 per cent of those studying in universities and colleges, UGC statistics showed.

Looking to the future, UNCTAD cautioned that “there were indications that educational institutions were not keeping pace with technological advances during the current transition period”.

It urged educational institutions to “react with agility” to the rapid pace of technology and the labour market changes and said this may require “significant transformations” in the education and training systems.

With the widespread use of artificial intelligence and robots looming on the horizon, the report said that “rapid technological progress required the labour force to develop a broader range of skills, focusing on humans’ comparative advantage, to increase employability”.

Also Read: India-Trained ‘Wrongly Educated’ Monks Banned by China

UNCTAD called for broadbasing education and said: “In the new technological landscape, there is a need for generic, core or fundamental skills such as literacy, numeracy and academic skills, together with basic financial and entrepreneurial skills and increasingly, basic digital and even coding skills.” (IANS)