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SOURCE: Express News Service

Senior scientist and adviser Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Tapan Mishra’s claim that he was poisoned with arsenic trioxide on May 23, 2017, when he was in a promotional interview at ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru, has come at a time when India is smarting under China’s recent space conquest and the former’s failed landing component of Chandrayaan-2 mission  in September 2019. China’s Chang’e-5 returned to earth last month with 4.4 pounds of precious lunar material, which has signalled China’s growing supremacy in the international space programme.

Mishra’s claim of an “espionage embedded in the government set up” to remove scientists, who are handling critical and sensitive projects, is an “attack on the image of India’s apex space research organization at a time when the country is aiming to secure the fourth place to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, and boost its credentials as a low-cost space power after Russia, the US and China,” said sources.

Sources on condition of anonymity said that Mishra survived brain cancer and has undergone intensive chemotherapy. “The presence of arsenic trioxide, which is an anti-cancer drug, could be because of the chemotherapy,” said sources. In his post – ‘Long kept secret’ on Facebook, he did mention that Kiran Kumar (former ISRO chairman) tried his best to convince me that my earlier case of squamous cell carcinoma is resurrecting.”

But Mishra insisted that he was “poisoned with the help of local, inside support” when he was in a closed-door meeting along with the then chairman, ISRO, A S Kiran Kumar, and the incumbent Chairman K Sivan. “It was one of the most secure and safe places to be in and yet I was poisoned. It cannot be an outsider hand without the local, inside support. I want the government to investigate the attack on scientists, who are handling critical and sensitive projects,” he said. Mishra added that he knew who could be behind his poisoning but refused to divulge any details.

Mishra, known as the key spy sat maker, was removed as director, Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad, in July 2018 and was appointed as senior adviser to ISRO Chairman by Sivan after alleged differences over privatization issues. Mishra, who has been credited for his contribution in making synthetic aperture radars – Risat and Cartosat — that are of strategic scientific, military and commercial importance, continued to stay in Ahmedabad even after being posted as senior adviser.  He is due to retire this month-end. Meanwhile, ISRO scientists refused to comment on this issue.