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Indian Nuclear Opacity

By: Mobeen Tariq : –
Pradipti Jayaram’s recent article ‘Counting suicides in India’s nuclear family’ raises several questions related to Indian nuclear program. It appears that the scientific community is not a happy team and is bereft with suicides, unexplained deaths, and acts of sabotage. A DAE response to an RTI query filed by activist Chetan Kothari said 197 employees committed suicide across the Department’s 32 centers in the years between 1995 and 2010. The incidents have gone mostly underreported and there has been little visibility about investigating the circumstances leading to these mysterious deaths.

The most persuasive issue isn’t whether these were natural deaths or were murders. The issue becomes suspect by the way the Indian government deals with its high-value scientists and does not publicize its findings to lay suspicions at rest. What would public make of unexplained deaths of two high-ranking engineers working in India’s nuclear-powered submarine. Last year, the bodies were found on railway tracks. No marks were found on the bodies. Some reports alleged they were poisoned elsewhere before being placed on the tracks to make the deaths look either accidental or suicidal. The media and the Indian Ministry of Defense, however, described the incident as a routine accident and didn’t investigate the circumstances of deaths.

It is ironical and saddening to see such utter disregard of humanity, especially once the victims are not ordinary citizens. Although there are no means to verify but it’s easy to assume that these mysterious deaths of high-value persons would be cause of anxiety and fear amongst their peers. Well this raises serious question to Indian PRP (Personal Reliability Program).

Pradipti Jayaram in his current article ‘Counting suicides in India’s nuclear family’ has said that mindful of the increasing number of suicides, the DAE has since 2010 made it mandatory for all job applicants to pass a psychological tests before being hired. But it is unclear if anything has been done to check on mental health once people are hired.

As, every nuclear facility in the world is closely guarded and wrapped in secrecy. The people engaged in running such facilities are supposed to maintain secrecy, something everyone is well aware of. These nuclear secrets are highly sensitive because if they fall in the wrong hands like terrorist groups, they can seriously compromise international security and have deadly consequences.

Mobeen Tariq is a Defense and Security Analyst

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