Bengaluru: A senior principal scientist of Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) Mysuru has become a victim of witch-hunt after being relentlessly hounded by his institution for over a decade, for becoming a whistle-blower of an in-house corruption that came to his notice when he took over as Head of the Department of Food Microbiology in the institute in 2004.
The harassment meted out on Dr S. Umesh Kumar (61) ranged from sexual harassment complaint lodged by one of his female colleagues to lately withholding all his retirement benefits, including final settlement, pending a long drawn internal inquiry. Dr S. Umesh Kumar was suspended in June 2015, four months before his retirement and is still awaiting penniless for his superannuation, pension, and retirement benefits and was even prevented from operating his bank account.
It all started in the year 2004 when Dr Umesh took over as HoD of the Food Microbiology Department of the CFTRI.
“As soon as I took over I found that the equipment that were purchased under government grants were not working and false certifications were made,” said Dr Umesh, adding “this came to my knowledge when a woman brought an equipment of `12 lakh in 2004. I brought this to the notice of my seniors and an inquiry was initiated and even discussions were made to blacklist the company that supplied the equipment, but nothing actually happened.”
Since the Prime Minister himself is the president of the society of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the parent institution of CFTRI, coming under the Ministry of Science and Technology, the senior principal scientist wrote to the supreme authority, who ordered the Chief Vigilance Officer of CSIR to look into the complaint. But interestingly, the CVO closed the case, which the scientist came to know through an RTI query.
The scientist then immediately reported the matter to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) under the Whistle Blower Act. “The CVC initiated an inquiry and they had unconditionally closed the case using manipulated documents,” said Dr Umesh.
“Sensing the government grants were being misused, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in 2007 initiated a probe against the woman, who had bought the non-functional equipment in 2004. Since the DBT came to know and collected all details from me, the woman being one of the faculty scientists and my colleague, Dr. Manonmani H.K., lodged a sexual harassment complaint against me and even reported the matter with the Karnataka Women’s Commission,” said Dr Umesh.
“In 2007-8, CFTRI started an inquiry on the sexual harassment complaint and without even giving me a complaint copy, I was troubled and harassed,” Dr Umesh said. This was brought to the knowledge of the CVC and the commission issued instruction stating that I should not be harassed,” said Dr. Umesh.
There was also an order in favour of me from the Vice President of CSIR, who is the union minister of Science and Technology,” added Dr Umesh. “When again I found out through RTI queries that funds to the tune of Rs 80 lakh and Rs 70 lakh per equipment that were allegedly not functioning were being purchased in the name of improving lab infrastructure of CSIR.
Like a prompt whistle blower I took it up with the CBI, who even conducted a surprise check at CFTRI and gave me a report that the complaint was verified. They again instructed the CVO to look into the matter and if needed they can approach with a formal complaint to the CBI for further investigation,” Dr Umesh said.
“And since the time I started with the expose, I noticed that I was not getting any promotion. In 2012 April, the CSIR even sent me a letter saying they received a report accusing me of publicizing institute’s confidential information.
I took the matter with the High Court in a writ petition, but the court said it comes under CAT and it went there. Later I began to realize that I was being made a scapegoat in the entire case with the CAT’s perjury judgment upholding respondents’ side as there was no evidence of a rejoinder filed by me, when I actually did it,” said Dr Umesh....