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Monday, May 08, 2006

A ‘temple’ out of the blue kicks off a row

Thiruvananthapuram • An unobtrusive structure has virtually “sprung” out of the bush on the Regional Research Laboratory (RRL) premises, with some pointing out it’s a temple while officials deny it has anything to do with religion.

Pictures made available to The Peninsula show a temple-building in the background and a metallic roofing nearing completion in the front, tucked in on a corner of the 50-acre campus of the RRL, a prestigious lab under the Federal Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The new structure is being built near the scientists’ apartments. The location is such that many people had not noticed it for a long time.

According to locals, all that existed on the site was a stone remnant under a huge tree when RRL bought the land some 20 years back.

It was a couple of months back a few families living at RRL residential quarters offered “pongala” — offering of cooked rice and jaggery — to the “deity”, after a popular form worship catching up in southern Kerala.

However, neither the Director, Prof T K Chandra Shekhar, nor Acting Director BC Pai knows what deity presided there. When asked, Pai said: “No religious structure is coming up on the premises. The picture, which appeared in a local newspaper, doesn’t say it’s a temple. We don’t intend to construct a temple here though several scientific institutions like the Vikram Sarabai Space Centre have places of worship on the campus.”

“Even the army division at Pangode in the city has worship centres on its premises. The army runs the Ganapati temple at Pazhavangadi in the city. Therefore, it’s nothing unusual to have worship centres on the premises of a national facility”, said Dr Pai. Dr Chandrasekhar could not be contacted as he was on tour.

Says Dr A. Sabu, a former scientist fellow at RRL: “Officials may not concede the fact of the temple on the premises of CSIR, which has been formed to promote research and scientific temperament.

A section of the RRL staff may be pleased with the temple but this will provoke demands from other sections for their own respective places of worship.

Would this contribute to the right academic ambience?” queries Dr Sabu, who teaches biotechnology at the University of Kannur.

A top scientist RRL however said it was uncharitable to credit the director with taking up a temple project when he has more serious academic matters to pursue. “It’s likely that someone had broached the idea and Dr Chandrasekhar may have nodded in approval quite innocuously”.

However, it’s unlikely that a worship centre could be built on the campus without the Director’s consent. Expenses would have to be met either from RRL funds or must have come as a gift from the local works contractor.

Whatever be the nature of the funds flow, RRL is on a frantic pace at the moment. Many projects, be it cell fuels, semi conductivity or phosphors are at various stages of development, attracting high peer reviews.

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