Intense search on for missing atomic scientist in Karnataka (Lead)

June 12th, 2009 - 12:29 am ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, June 11 (IANS) Search operations have been intensified to trace a senior scientific officer of the Kaiga atomic power plant in coastal Karnataka after he went missing Monday, police said Thursday.
Scientist, L. Mahalingam, 47, left home in the Kaiga township Monday morning for a walk but did not return since then.

“We have formed a special search team to find the scientist. Combing operations are on in the dense 1,000-acre Mallapur forest and fringe areas for any sign of his presence,” Uttara Kannada District Superintendent of Police Raman Gupta told IANS on phone from Kaiga, about 500 km from here.

Personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) stationed at the atomic power plant and forest guards have also joined the search even as heavy rains and a swelling Kali river in the Western Ghats were hampering the operation.

“We have already searched the 100-acre Kaiga township. We are enquiring with the people in the nearby areas by showing the scientist’s photograph to ascertain if anyone had seen him around but there has been no breakthrough so far,” Gupta stated.

Asked if the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had joined the search operation, Gupta said the IB was free to carry on its own search as their activity was not open to public scrutiny.

“Investigation into a missing case is the primary duty of the state police. IB can search on its own or seek information about the missing scientist from us. There is no conflict of interest,” Gupta clarified.

Kadra inspector Vittaldas Pai said details or background information of Mahalingam was not forthcoming from his family members or the Kaiga authorities to investigate the missing case.

“Though the scientist’s wife Vinayakar Sundari lodged the missing complaint Monday evening, she has not given details and their neighbours in the residential quarters are also hesitant to share any information about the family,” Pai pointed out.

Kaiga spokesperson Jugal Kishore said Mahalingam has been working at the power plant since 10 years and lived in the township quarters.

“Mahalingam, who hails from Chennai, is a BE (mechanical) and works in the simulation training centre at the power plant. We are doing our best to trace him and help the family cope with the unfortunate development,” Kishore told IANS from Kaiga.

The scientist has a teenaged daughter, studying in pre-university college.

This is the first time such an incident has occurred in the decade-old Kaiga plant, set up by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation India (NPCI). It has three units and uses pressurised heavy water reactor to generate about 220 megawatts each.

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