Sasikumar and Nambi Narayanan | Mathrubhumi Photos
Sasikumar, who was an accused alongside Nambi Narayanan in the ISRO espionage case, was a senior scientist at ISRO Fabrication and Technology division. He has worked at Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) ISRO in Valiamala, Thiruvananthapuram. He was the head of the Industrial Liaison Planning Division at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) from 1986 to 1989.
He became the General Manager of the Photofabrication and Technology Division in May 1990. Sasikumar refutes Nambi Narayanan's claims in the film 'Rocketry: The Nambi Effect' that he was the master brain in ISRO. "It is a crime to portray Nambi as the most outstanding scientist of ISRO," says Sasikumar in his conversation with Mathrubhumi.com. Excerpts from the interview:
Have you watched 'Rocketry: The Nambi Effect'? The movie portrays Nambi Narayanan as the best scientist ISRO has seen. Do you agree with this notion?
I watched the movie. I must say that it is pathetic that such an idea is being propagated through the movie. It is almost equivalent to treason. It humiliates our nation and an institution where thousands of scientists are working together.
Scientists who have served ISRO way better than Nambi are forced to listen to this misleading narrative. It is quite understandable that masala is added to movies to please the public. But it should not be at the expense of facts. Noone from ISRO will accept Nambi Narayanan's words over this, they would rather ward it off as something inconsequential. Imagination may be put to use in movies, but it is entirely wrong and unjustified to present imagination as reality.
There is a scene in the movie where Nambi Narayanan corrects APJ Abdul Kalam. What is your take on that?
It's as if anything can be said about a deceased person! If Kalam were alive, such a scene would not have been included in the movie. They have not worked together on any project other than the time when Nambi Narayanan joined as a Technical Assistant during the early days of his career.
Kalam started working on SLV-3 in 1971. I was a part of the core team comprising seven members and was the second go-to person concerned with the SLV project. Nambi had tried to get into Kalam's team while we were working on the project. But Kalam did not let him in. Everyone working at ISRO knows who Nambi really is. All these are pretences and can be clearly understood by taking a closer look at his life.
It is said that Nambi Narayanan was physically tortured while in police custody. The movie also shows that. Were you beaten up as well?
I was in police custody for 12 days, whereas Nambi was just there for 2 or 3 days. So, naturally, I'll be the one who suffered more in custody, right? I have not been subjected to any form of physical torture. I was questioned by RB Sreekumar, Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). He behaved with me very decently. By the time Nambi was arrested, an order had been passed to transfer the case to the CBI. So, there was not much questioning involved during police custody.
Nambi Narayanan received a compensation of Rs 1.91 crore from the treasury over the ISRO espionage case. What did you get?
I did not try to do that. My ethics do not agree with taking tax money from the poor for the mistakes on the part of officers. If I had tried for it, I too would have received the compensation amount, but my conscience could never bear such a thing. Nambi Narayanan sought a compensation amount of Rs 1 crore in court. But he was given Rs 1.3 crore additional compensation by the government before the court passed the verdict on the matter, hence settling the case. I have not heard of such a thing anywhere else in the world.
LPSC Director AE Muthunayagam was your head and Nambi Narayanan's. Have you read his recent work 'From Space to Sea - My ISRO Journey and Beyond'? Does he agree with Nambi's contributions?
I have read it thoroughly. Muthunayagam is a senior scientist who is responsible for conceiving and carrying out several projects. He is the mastermind behind them all. He too is infuriated by the false claims made by Nambi, who has taken credit for this work. ISRO is an establishment, where there have been many brilliant scientists like Sivaramakrishnan Nair, who developed the whole PS 4 of PSLV.
Siva Ramakrishnan also developed the design of a liquid engine for the first time. CG Balan worked on its critical components. Another scientist, Sreedharan Das also made a significant contribution, by developing an entire control system for the ISRO. Their inventions are used in all the projects of ISRO to date. Nambi Narayanan is nobody compared to these persons.
We always hail fake persons without giving due respect to deserving people. Nambi was just one among the many engineers who worked under Muthunayagam. Nambi has not led any research or development by himself. Cryogenics is the most advanced technology used for propulsion. Muthunayagam has referred to Nambi as only a member of the team.
Are you suggesting that Nambi had no part in the Cryogenic project?
Yes. When Nambi took charge as the director of the cryogenic systems project in 1994, we had not received the technology needed for the purpose from Russia.
Nambi claims that there was a delay in developing India's cryogenic technology due to his arrest. Is there any truth in his words?
Not at all. Muthunayagam himself had made it clear earlier. There is one thing to be noted here. This case was wrapped up by the Supreme Court in 1998. I spent three years learning the law and fought my own case in court. I retired in 1999. Nambi was with ISRO for four years after that. If he is as talented as he claims to be, he could have developed the cryogenic project then. It is also to be contemplated why he was made to sit idle by ISRO for four whole years.
Recently he made a statement that the Vikas engine developed by him had not failed to date. Is it true?
It was not Nambi, who developed the Vikas engine. 'Vikas engine' is just a name. It is originally the Viking engine of France and it was designed by German scientists. A German scientist, who reached France following the second world war was the architect of the engine. We have no authority to make any claim regarding the engine.
The movie reveals that India received equipment worth crores from Scotland because of Nambi. Is there any truth in this?
Not at all. Those are exaggerations.
It has been also shown that America possesses a grudge against Nambi for discarding the job offered by NASA for ISRO.
Nambi is adept at misleading those who are ignorant of a particular field, even if the listeners are well educated. There were only a few engineers in the 1960s. NASA had recruited engineers from various countries, including India and the Philippines then.
There is nothing to be amazed about. NASA might have decided to recruit Nambi for any project and it was not because Nambi was an expert. One of my colleagues, Raveendran, who is a Kollam native had gone to NASA for such a project. It's not a big deal for a scientist. There are many fools in our nation, who perceive NASA and Princeton University as something incredible. They are those who romanticise such trivial events.