Fraud scientist takes RSS for a ride across Lord Rama’s bridge
By Shirshir Gupta
New Delhi:THE “space scientist” who, for two years, helped the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) formulate its opposition to the Sethusamudram project has turned out to be just like the Sangh’s argument – a fraud.
The RSS said today that it would “remove” him as pracharak after an investigation by The Sunday Express showed that Puneesh Taneja, who is said to have access right up to Sarsanghchalak K S Sudershan, allegedly forged his credentials.
He passed himself off as “Dr” Puneesh Taneja and flaunted visit ing cards and stationery identifying himself as “Senior Research Scientist/Additional Secretary, Department of Space, Prime Minister’s Office, South Block, New Delhi.”
These cards, obtained by The Sunday Express, are embossed with the logo of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
Sources said Taneja told the RSS that he was on a two-year leave from the Government and that he was with ISRO. There are red faces in the saffron brotherhood because many within the RSS were taken in by these cards and even saw Taneja as a “linkman” between the RSS and the UPA Government.
So much so that he was made a fulltime pracharak in 2005 and be gan operating from an RSS flat in Noida.
“ISRO has no relation with this man. We have not heard of him at all. The Additional Secretary, Department of Space, is an IAS officer. He is S V Ranganath, he sits in Bangalore. Also, the Sethusamudram project has no connection with ISRO,” ISRO director for information
S Krishnamurthy told The Sunday Express in Bangalore.
The Sunday Express met Taneja at his residence and asked him why he was impersonating as a PMO officer. Taneja denied he had anything to do with the PMO but claimed there was a “threat to his life” as he was “doing research” on the Sethusamudram project.
“Everybody has a mission in life, Sethusamudram is my mission,” he said. “I moved into this flat days ago and have sought protection from RSS leader Ram Madhav. The only time I have come out in the public is when I addressed the media with Ashok Singhal on Sethusamudram.” Taneja admitted he was not a scientist adding, however, that he was “researching” the canal project. When asked about his academic credentials, he said he didn’t want to comment.
But few in the RSS were suspicious.
For, last month, Taneja even held a press conference in the capital with VHP chief Ashok Singhal who slammed the Government on the project. Defying all scientific evidence, the VHP and RSS officially urged the UPA Government to re-route the project claiming it would destroy the “Rama Sethu” built by Lord Ram to Lanka to rescue Sita. The Sangh even threatened to launch an agitation against the Centre in case the canal’s route isn’t changed.
When contacted today, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav admitted that Taneja was an RSS pracharak. When asked about the alleged forgery, Madhav said: “We have received some complaints about some of the activities of Mr Taneja outside the RSS. The RSS leadership feels these complaints have enough substance to warrant his immediate removal as pracharak.”
(with Vikas Dhoot & ENS, Bangalore)
- Indian Express (June 17, 2007)