Press Release, 2.5.2010

DTF demands resignation of VC / PVC for role in disposal of gamma irradiator. Documents expose their involvement.

The DTF condemns in the strongest terms Professor Deepak Pental, Vice Chancellor, University of Delhi, for the shocking criminal negligence which has caused the death of one person and permanent damage to the lives of many others. The incident of selling containers with radioactive material as scrap by a committee of Professors of the Science Departments of a premier university cannot be treated as a “mistake” or “miscalculation” as claimed by the Vice-Chancellor.

The committee that took the decision to “dispose off the obsolete equipments, apparatus and wooden/steel furniture of the Department” of Chemistry was constituted with the approval of the Vice Chancellor and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (see Attachment-20-01-2010). It included the Head of the Department of Chemistry, the Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, the Head of the Department of Botany and several other senior professors from various science departments. The first meeting of the committee was on 10 February 2010 (see Attachment-10-02-2010) and the permission to dispose off the items identified by the committee by public auction by the Engineering Department was given by Professor S. K. Tandon, Pro-Vice Chancellor, on 15 February (Attachment-15-02-2010). The auction took place on 26 February 2010 (see Attachment-26-02-2010).

Not only was the committee of professors of the Science departments approved by the VC and PVC, approval was also granted for the actual list of items to be disposed off. Both the VC and the PVC are scientists who must have known even without any advice the dangers involved in disposal of equipment containing radioactive material as well as the requirement of adhering to the stringent rules laid down for this purpose. The unseemly haste of the process shows that there were no serious deliberations on the issues and neither the committee members nor the approving authorities even considered that auction of the gamma irradiator to a scrap dealer would be in flagrant violation of rules for disposal of hazardous radioactive waste.

The VC has owned ‘moral responsibility’. But is it enough to claim ‘moral responsibility’ for actions with fatal consequences which have been sanctioned by both him and the PVC? One person has died, several others are still in hospital, and according to reports some parts of the gamma irradiator are still missing. The entire incident is the most shocking reflection of Prof. Pental’s habitual disregard of rules and regulations. It has exposed in the most grievous manner the disastrous consequences that this manner of functioning by the head of the institution can have.

The DTF demands the immediate resignation of Prof. Pental and Prof. Tandon for their role in the disposal of the gamma irradiator. It further demands a full investigation of the issue and action against all those found responsible for this extremely callous decision.

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