The Calcutta-based Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) has accused the Union science ministry of trying to discredit it through “false allegations” and take “control” of the organisation as it prepares for its 109th annual session in January 2024.
The association has asked the ministry’s department of science and technology (DST) to withdraw its September 25 notice dissociating itself from the 109th session and accusing the ISCA of changing the venue from Lucknow to Jalandhar without government approval.
The ISCA is an association of scientists that organises the high-profile Indian Science Congress as its annual session.
The DST had said it had asked the ISCA not to incur any expenditure from the exchequer without central government approval.
The DST had also cited “financial irregularities” at the ISCA and said it was withdrawing support for the organisation’s forthcoming annual session in Jalandhar.
ISCA general president Arvind Saxena has in a letter to the DST secretary accused the department of making “false” and “motivated” allegations against the association against the backdrop of a legal challenge the ISCA has mounted against what it views as the DST’s attempts to “take control” of the organisation.
The letter says the DST tried to change the ISCA’s bylaws through an administrative order on May 3, 2023, and nominated an executive committee in place of the elected executive committee. “DST in fact wants its control on ISCA,” Saxena wrote.
A request sent by this newspaper to the DST spokesperson seeking a response to the ISCA letter has not yet evoked a reply.
Saxena said the ISCA had been compelled to seek legal intervention against the DST for what the organisation describes as an effort to deplete its autonomy.
Calcutta High Court had in response to a writ petition from the ISCA directed the organisation and the DST to resolve the matter through discussions.
The DST’s citing of the shift in venue from Lucknow to Jalandhar as one of the reasons for withdrawing support is, Saxena wrote, “an excuse” the department has adopted to dissociate itself from the ISCA’s annual session, which has been inaugurated by Prime Ministers since Independence.
“Till date, ISCA has taken its decision to select the venue (on) its own. In all cases ISCA did not take permission or approval of the DST or any other competent authority of the government in selecting the venue,” Saxena said in the letter.
He described the allegations of financial irregularities as “false and baseless”.
The DST has performed four audits this year but has not reported any irregularities in the audits, Saxena said, adding that the department had presented the audited statements of accounts in Parliament.
Saxena also challenged the DST’s claim in the notice that the ISCA had lost its relevance to the science community, saying the 108th annual session in Nagpur had received over 16,000 registered delegates, including some 105 foreign participants.