Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ayyadurai speaks

Shiva Ayyadurai, recently the subject of controversy regarding a report he wrote for CSIR (previous post on the subject here), has written an article (free registration required) for Nature's website putting forward his side of the story.

Well, it's hardly a story -- it's a polemic, filled with unsubstantiated allegations of fraud and chicanery, hurled from his safe harbour in Boston; his most extreme allegation is a suggestion that CSIR resorted to arson at their own headquarters to hide financial wrongdoing.

I was recently at a meeting where I met several scientists from CSIR, and several others who know the director-general; and, as a local newspaper reprinted the recent New York Times article that, again, portrayed the Ayyadurai side uncritically, the topic came up for conversation. Now, it is safe to say that this was not a Samir Brahmachari Fan Club. "He does not listen to anyone" was one of the more flattering things said about him. Nevertheless, there was zero sympathy for Ayyadurai, and in fact I heard some rather unsavoury (but also unsubstantiated) things about his behaviour while he was with CSIR. (With enemies like Ayyadurai, who needs friends?)

And, by the way, I don't think it counts as "harassment" to ask someone to vacate their cushy government house in the heart of Delhi when they cease to be an employee. With the standard house-rent allowance (30% of his reportedly substantial salary) Ayyadurai could easily have rented a comfortable house privately: why didn't he? Of course, if he had done that, and been fired, he could not have complained that the government was no longer paying his rent.

It seems to me that, if CSIR really wanted to get nasty, they should sue Ayyadurai for libel based on his Nature article -- in England. English laws permit libel suits by foreigners against foreigners if it can be shown that the material was readable in England; in this case, since Nature is a UK company, this should be easy. And even if Ayyadurai has a case, defending himself would not be a pleasant experience. Just ask Simon Singh. (I'm not recommending that CSIR do this. I am saying that if they did, that, not asking him to vacate government housing, would be nasty and vindictive. But not less so than Ayyadurai's own behaviour.)

But -- to repeat what I asked in my previous blog post on the subject -- I would like Samir Brahmachari to clarify exactly in what capacity Shiva Ayyadurai was hired in the first place, and why. His qualifications are meagre (yes, he has a few MIT degrees, but thousands of people do; and he ran a little-known e-mail company in the Boston area. That's about it, as far as I can tell.) His website is one of the most crudely self-promoting that I have seen. What, Prof Brahmachari, impressed you about him?

And I'd like to know why the media, from the Hindustan Times to the New York Times to Nature, is unquestioningly allowing him a pulpit.


Unknown said...

So how much does Brahmachari pay you? Clearly, I read the Nature Article. Ayyadurai himself is calling for an OPEN PUBLIC FORUM with everyone there. Seems like the booty licking your doing for Brahmachari has gotten in your way --- keep on licking and forget the reality.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

I'm sure SKB will be interested to learn that I'm his bootlicker. (My interaction with him has been minimal, and not, I thought, particularly cordial.)

As I said, the people I met were not his circle of admirers -- but, with enemies like Shiva Ayyadurai...

Sachin Shanbhag said...

I don't understand why this guy Ayyadurai gets as much press as he does. While I don't like the fact that he comes off as a martyr, if you decide to take the big picture and hope that this incident brings the problems CSIR faces into sharp focus, and helps deal with them, then the whole affair may not be so bad after all for the overall health of the system.

However, I skimmed through Ayyadurai's "damning report" that Abi linked to on his blog, and don't think it offers anything new or insightful perspective that could be used to tackle the problem.

Sure, the guy Ayyadurai seems like a typical pompous self-promoter. I completely agree with you that getting into MIT for an American undergrad is *far* easier than it is to get into an IIT for an Indian undergrad. It certainly doesn't impress me.

Anonymous said...

@rahul i think veda meant "booty" licker not bootlicker ;)
sorry, i have nothing against you (in fact i like reading your blog), and neither am i aware of ayyadurai's credentials. i think his allegations are true, and unless they are acted upon, we will continue to see millions of tax rupees go down the drain in feeding a corrupt and powerful clique, one of many that are ruining indian science.
and sorry for remaining anonymous. i am a student and don't know on whose side my professor is.

Anonymous said...

No one is denying that Shiva is at best a nut case. However, this episode is showing that not everything is right in CSIR too. We have to look at the message not the messenger.
If everything is right, why DG-CSIR has to threaten nytimes reporter? Is this the knid of behavior expected from a bureaucrat (I am hesitant to use word scientist for DG-CSIR)

Rahul Basu said...

On a different note from that of this post: Why is it that people who want to indulge in name-calling like 'boot-licker' always hide their true identity? I guess it's always better to throw stones from behind a wall!

About this post - many people seem to imply that while SA may be a chest thumping self promoting nut, his comments if taken seriously might improve conditions in CSIR. But the whole point is that while CSIR is clearly in need of re-organisation and a serious attitudinal change, recommendation from a 'nut' are hardly likely to be taken seriously. Even a serious and sincere technocrat would have difficulty implementing recommendations from a man who clearly has very poor credentials himself (looking at it dispassionately). If CSIR and its DG are serious about improvement, they should commission a report from a properly constituted review committee (the way, TIFR, NCBS, IMSc have done) from well-known and distinguished academicians from India and elsewhere rather than a person with little or no academic credentials relevant to the job entrusted to him.

Anonymous said...

The NYT closer zinged:

"..To prove his point, Mr. Brahmachari, who was two hours late for an interview scheduled by his office, read from a government guide about decision-making in the organization. Mr. Ayyadurai didn’t follow protocol, he said. “As long as your language is positive for the organization I have no problem,” he added.

As the interview was closing, Mr. Brahmachari questioned why anyone would be interested in the situation, and then said he would complain to a reporter’s bosses in New York if she continued to pursue the story..."


Anonymous said...

Well i hope SA's unprofessional language was the cause of his ejection otherwise DG probably missed the following management wisdom -
How to Pick a Good Fight : Strong leaders create the kind of conflict that can spark creativity and innovation.

IGIB-exile said...

I congratulate Vinod scaria, Sridhar Sibasubbu, "insider", unoCSIR, "SA fan club" etc and some others CSIR-IGIB "ZIHADI's".

After long battle in blogoshphere and declaring "FATOHA" against "Nature India", the commentary written by Shiva Ayyadurai ("Innovation demands freedom") is removed from Nature India website ("The text of 'Innovation demands freedom' is no longer available on this website").

This is a great win of Brahmachari and his gang of sycophants, but a great loss for Indian people who may like to have a transparent administration in Indian science.
I foresee a great future of Indian science under leadership of CSIR DG Samir Brahmachari and his fundamentalist Zihadi's.
Amartya Sen once wrote a book on "Argumentative Indian". I think in Indian science "Argument" have no place, last word will always be spoken by dictatorial administration of pseudo democratic India. It is not at all a surprise from my motherland, a country where corrupt "big shots" always escape from the dragnet of "judicial system" (100's of cases like "Boforce" to "Delhi Sikh homicide" exist in India). Shiva Ayyadurai controversy is now dead and Science in CSIR is dead even before that.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Anonymous: thanks for the information. I'm happy that sense dawned on the people at Nature India. Amusingly, the article is still on display at Shiva's site, and if you click on it it says "Access to the article is restricted." Touch him wherever you will, the guy is false.

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