Friday, February 11, 2011

Need to know and Right to Know

      Isro chairman K.Radhakrishnan operates on the basis of the ``Need To Know.'' But, he is perhaps unaware that the public which is the taxpayer has the ``Right To Know.''

      Four days into the Isro spectrum scam, and PM Manmohan Singh constituded a two-man committee to probe the controversial Antrix-Devas deal which has triggered a controversy.

      Why a controversy? The reason is that one of the members of this committee, B.K. Chaturvedi, was the Cabinet Secretary when the deal was controversial deal was clinched. The other member is Roddam Narasimha, former director of National Aerospace Laboratory. Opposition parties have already objections to Chaturvedi's inclusion. The issue is getting murkier and murker and it is unfortunate that Isro which brought honours to India by taking this country to the moon and received bouquets is today getting nothing but brickbats after brickbats.

       All this perhaps could have been avoided if only Isro were a little more transparent in its operations and dealings. It should have considered the fact that the public has the ``Right To Know.'' This was emphasised by Mayank Vahia, a Tifr space scientist to ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' a short while ago. His opinion has been shared by other scientists too. But good news. Isro has decided to become a bit transparent. And how?   It has finally decided to list the names of the space commission members on its website! It has realised that everyone has the ``Right To Know'' this information.  After all if the department of atomic energy which deals with nuclear weapons can do this, why not Isro?

       Good. This is the first step towards Isro becoming a little more transparent and open. This is a matter of irony---perhaps the controversial Antrix-Devas deal will help Isro to atlast change its work culture and become more open: out of the ashes something good will finally emerge: hopefully.

       On Saturday February 12 2012 is an important meeting of the Space Commission in New Delhi. But, unfortunately its agenda and the delibrations remain a top secret. In order to avoid the usual misrepresentation of facts and confusion in the media it would be advisable if the commission considers issuing a statement at the end of the session. In view of the current developments, the Space Commission should be aware that this particular meeting will attract a lot of media as well as public interest. The public and the media have the ``Right To Know.''

       Assuming that Isro is zooming into a transparent trajectory, the following needs to be considered:-

       * The GSLV failure analysis report as well as the other committee report should be available in its original form on the Isro website. A mere summary through a press release should not be there.

       *  The Suresh Committee report should be hosted on the website again in its original form.

       *  The Lunar Task Force report prepared by George Joseph and his team when the Indian moon mission was being planned should also be publicised. Why should this remain a secret even after Chandrayaan-1 has successfully completed its mission? This is secrecy being carried to ridiculous extents.

       In this respect Isro needs to follow the example of the American system which declassifies items after a certain period of time. To repeat Isro must be aware that the public has the right to know since it is the taxpayer. Also bulk of Isro programmes are not classified ones. BMM has in its possession declassified US documents relating to as sensitive a subject like India's nuclear weapons programme. All these are available on the website of the American National Security archives.

       What prevents someone from filing a RTI and obtaining all these Isro reports? This can happen.

        Wake up. We are living in a new era.

         The public has the ``Right To Know.''    





1 comment:

  1. Hopefully, ISRO will push information rather than wait for media to pull information from it. There is a fundamental change in the way information is shared today. It is unfortunate that ISRO had to wait till such a moment to publish such information.