Dr Debasis Dash has been appointed as Director of the Institute of Life Sciences (ILS), Bhubaneswar. The Appointments Committee of the Central Cabinet on May 17 approved the appointment of Dash to the post. Presently, he is serving as Scientist ‘G’/Chief Scientist, CSIR-Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi.
When Dr Ajay Parida was the Director, ILS, he had exponentially increased the infrastructure, scientific productivity and popularity of the institute among general public.
According to sources, he had started many programmes of national importance such as "improvement of minor pulses project", "Himalayan bio-mission" for validating bioresources for greater use, INSACOG and sewerage surveillance projects for understanding the evolution and prevalence of Covid-19, "center of excellence in marine biotechnology" for identifying plants and microbes from marine and costal sources for societal benefit.
Many such high value projects aimed at the benefit of the society were in the pipeline. But after his unfortunate demise everything is left behind as it is.
These include Biotech-URJIT cluster that proposed to bring many institutes and universities in Odisha for better research collaboration, expansion of marine biotechnology project, extension of ILS-flagship project on tribal health and nutrition and UMMID project that is designed to monitor genetic disorders among tribal communities of Odisha.
Dr Parida advocated and worked tirelessly to bring all the researchers to work towards development of the society. He also worked with national agencies to get funding support for these projects. His demise and lack of leadership at the ILS brought a year of great uncertainty at the institute.
It is also alleged that some activities were carried out without the knowledge of the Director (additional charge) Prof Pulok Mukherjee, who is in charge of ILS along with the IBSD, Imphal.
Some senior faculties and the administration have created confusion by creating a parallel system of governance at the ILS, implementing grossly inappropriate and illegal methods to hire and fire employees and making purchases and availing services without approval of the Director (additional charge).
Recently, five technicians were fired by the ILS, some of whom have been rehired. It is yet to be clear that why their contracts were first terminated and then they were reappointed. Additionally, five-six technicians were also appointed without the knowledge of the Director (additional charge).
Besides, several contracts, purchases and repair works have been awarded and payments have been made without following proper procedure and the approval of the Director.
It is also alleged that the PhD programmes were previously attracted talented students and scholars, but now due to controversy, they are not interested for it.
It might be mentioned that some PhD students have started dabbling in non-academic activities such as running the ILS canteen and other petty investments rather than focusing on research activities.
Now, it will be watched how new Director Dr Dash would bring the ILS back on the track after a year of neglect.