Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fired: ISI Director Bimal Roy


Update: I'm adding more information and links at the end. See also the comments.

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The firing of Prof. Bimal Roy from the post of the Director of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, seems unusual because (a) a new Director is to take charge in less than two months (b) the said new-Director has also been identified, and (c) Bimal Roy is among the recipients of the 2015 Padma Awards. To top it all, the official order says the man is being fired "to prevent indiscipline and mischief, and to prevent the eventualities of administrative malfeasance."

Here's an excerpt from the order from MoSPI, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation:

... A number of general and specific matters of financial and administrative irregularities which show the direct or supervisory responsibilities for acts of omission and commission on the part of present Director, Prof. B.B. Roy, are available in the Ministry in the various files on the different subjects.

There is justified and reasonable apprehension that the present Director, Prof Bimal Roy may indulge in propagation of indiscipline and mischief, including acts of administrative and financial impropriety in the interregnum up to 31st July, 2015 (before the new Director, Prof S Bandyopadhyay takes charge on 1st August 2015)

After this news became public, the Chair of ISI Council, Dr. Arun Shourie, has defended the order from MoSPI, saying that the Government had no option.

Given the unusual combination of a blunt verdict and vague allegations about possible future crimes, it is surprising that no news organization has chosen to dig deeper. The silence of The Telegraph, in whose backyard all this stuff is happening, is not just surprising, but also deeply puzzling!

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Update 1 (20 June 2015):

  1. The Wire has a story (thanks to commenter Pulsereed) with some additional details culled from a petition seeking Justice for ISI, and from this Reddit thread.

  2. Outlook also has a story with original reporting by Dola Mitra: Portal Of Unease ("The ISI director is ruthlessly sacked as curtains are drawn shut in secrecy").

    Thanks to a comment (by "counterfeiter", an ISI alum), we now know of this Facebook page ("Justice for ISI") which features messages of support for Prof. Roy, and messages of protest against the Ministry; it also features video messages from ISI alums who are now academics in the US.

  3. The petition (which I have signed) gives some background information, and concludes with the following demands:

    1. Proper independent public investigation must be done regarding the Ministry's allegations against Prof. Roy, the charges against Prof. Roy must be presented to the council, and a proper hearing must be conducted by the Council, before deciding upon the next course of action.

    2. The audio recording of the Director selection meeting along with its transcript should be released immediately and investigated by independent authority.

    3. Till these investigations are over and the Council decides otherwise, citing valid proof, Prof Bimal Kumar Roy should be immediately reinstated at the position of interim Director.

3 Comments:

  1. pulsereed said...

    There's some info in this The Wire piece.

  2. counterfeiter said...

    Outlook has covered the news:

    http://www.outlookindia.com/article/portal-of-unease/294635#comments

    There is also some coverage in a few Bengali newspapers that are closer to the narrative, but I am not sure it would be appropriate to post it here. I am an ISI alumnus and one of the active voices of dissent. What has happened is terribly wrong - the entire decision-making process was not just uncivil, it was undemocratic and flouted academic freedom. The Ministry’s decision to fire a sitting Director was made unilaterally, without consulting the ISI Council which is the highest governing body of this Institute of National Importance.

    I would like to urge you to read a petition (http://chn.ge/1JNWe5u) that we have started. The petition has gained 2k+ signatures in just 3-4 days. You should also visit this facebook page for more info.

  3. counterfeiter said...

    Outlook has covered the news:

    http://www.outlookindia.com/article/portal-of-unease/294635#comments

    There is also some coverage in a few Bengali newspapers that are closer to the narrative, but I am not sure it would be appropriate to post it here. I am an ISI alumnus and one of the active voices of dissent. What has happened is terribly wrong - the entire decision-making process was not just uncivil, it was undemocratic and flouted academic freedom. The Ministry’s decision to fire a sitting Director was made unilaterally, without consulting the ISI Council which is the highest governing body of this Institute of National Importance.

    I would like to urge you to read a petition (http://chn.ge/1JNWe5u) that we have started. The petition has gained 2k+ signatures in just 3-4 days. You should also visit this facebook page for more info.