Suppose you are heading the country's largest and most important scientific organisation. You know that, despite some very bright spots, it has been getting creaky and bureaucratic over several decades. Being a dynamic and go-getting scientist, you have several ideas on what is to be done. One of the things you want to do is to set up a new department aimed at streamlining the process of commercialising new technologies, and establishing better links with industry. Would you hire this guy? Would you offer him a job the very first time you met him?
The current director-general of the CSIR apparently did. And there, in my opinion, started the trouble that has since then accounted for much column-space and blog-energy. Good reviews, and links, are on Abi's blog: here and here (some of the comments are interesting too).
V A Shiva, also called Shiva Ayyadurai, seems to have had an interesting career. He is not a career scientist, but has bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, visual studies and theoretical mechanics from MIT; and recently, apparently, he earned a Ph.D. in systems biology from the same institution. In between, he has mainly been in what we like to call the IT sector, primarily running an e-mail provider, EchoMail. Read his biography for more.
The DG of CSIR, Prof S K Brahmachari, is a smarter man than me, and no doubt a better and more experienced judge of others' CVs and abilities. It appeared to me that Shiva Ayyadurai has few notable academic achievements, and his primary commercial undertaking, EchoMail, is not exactly a household name. He seems prone to bombast: for example, he claims to have created "one of the world's first e-mail systems" in 1979, but e-mail has been around since the 1960s. Nevertheless, a thorough interview and review of the man's abilities and accomplishments may have led Prof Brahmachari to conclude that he was the right person to head his pet project, CSIR-Tech. But was that done, or was it an instantaneous decision, as Shiva suggests?
Having been hired, at a generous salary, he was apparently asked to produce a report on the functioning of the CSIR and future improvements. This he did, and that is when all hell broke loose, and the CSIR terminated his appointment (the CSIR claims that he was not employed in a permanent position, only hired on contract, and there are also claims that he was asking for too much money). Shiva went ballistic, complaining to everyone in the media who would listen that he was being victimised for his genuine and well-meaning criticisms of the organisation. He claims also to have written to the Prime Minister. What the PM thinks of it, we don't know.
So what did he say? The Deccan Herald excerpts the report here. I have seen the full report but do not think it is worth "leaking": it seems hastily put together, is unprofessional and often personal in tone, identifies obvious problems that I'm sure are well known to all CSIR scientists, and prescribes remedies that would be within the province of a first-year MBA student. Nevertheless, do read the DH link for its entertainment value, if you like. As Abi asks, if this is Shiva's opinion of the man who hired him, why does he want to keep the job, and having aired such an opinion, why should he expect to keep the job?
As some commenters on Abi's blog suggest, maybe he was already told not to expect to be hired in a permanent position, and his report was his way of venting his grievance at the CSIR DG. Which makes it even more unprofessional. Regardless of the truth or otherwise in his observations, I don't think the report will now be taken seriously, nor should it be.
But that shouldn't detract from two key issues. First, exactly what sort of position was Shiva hired under in the first place, why, and what was his mandate? Second, the need to reform and streamline CSIR remains: what does the DG plan to do in this regard? I suspect the CSIR DG made a mistake (caused by over-eagerness to "get things done") in hiring V A Shiva, and knows it; he should now make amends -- first, by coming clean on exactly what happened; and second, by making sure the need for reforming and modernising CSIR is not sidetracked.