NASA scientist Arun exposed as fraudster

Arun P. Vijayakumar, 27, hit the headlines after saying he’d been selected as a research scientist for the US space agency, even telling the media that Nasa relaxed its citizenship requirements “as it was so impressed with his knowledge and patriotism”

Newspapers, both local and National papers reported about his feat, mentioning Arun was part of a NASA delegation to Delhi, and was the youngest in the delegation. The report said NASA was so impressed that senior scientists conveyed his story to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

In the first week of October 2014, Telegraph reported about the same, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to know about Arun from the Home Minister and Modi invited the young scientist to a private meeting.

Even as Arun was enjoying the limelight, some people started asking questions.  His claims were first questioned on a Google Group discussion. Another person who doubted Arun’s claims was Jayanath Jayanthan, the Superintendent of Police, Telecommunications, Kerala.

Jayanath also is in charge of a social media group called Netizen police, an initiative by the Kerala police. When he shared Arun’s story with some people on the group, someone at MIT said it was a hoax.

“One group member was at MIT and he expressed his doubts about Arun’s claims as he knew all the Keralites in MIT. Then we enquired about Arun and realized that he has no connection with neither MIT nor NASA,” Jayanath told The News Minute.

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“After that I talked to him personally, not as a policeman but just as someone older to him. He confessed to me that everything was a lie, in our enquiry we found out that he worked in Royal University of Bhutan as lecturer between July 2013 to July 2014,” Jayanath said.

According to Jayanath, Arun even got the position of a lecturer in the Bhutan university by showing the English media’s coverage about him. “I spoke to the Bhutan University officials. They told me Arun showed them the news clippings, should we have disbelieved the national paper which reported about him they asked me,” Jayanath said.

So what set Arun on this fictional path? “As a child he always wanted to work in America. While other friends were getting lucrative offers, he did not want to lie that an Indian company had offered him a job, so he told friends about NASA. Working in NASA perhaps was his dream. The story was picked up by media, many fantasies added to it and Arun became a hit,” Jayanath says.

Arun did not respond to our calls, but he told the Deccan Chronicle (which broke the story of the hoax) that he had never met the Prime Minister.

“I am wondering how so many news reports were published, even claiming that he met the PM,” Jayanath said. Though Jayanath had warned him some days ago, Arun went and spoke about his achievements at a police event.

The IHRD which organised a felicitation meet for him now says they were also duped into believing that Arun did get into NASA. “He showed us a news clipping that reported about an MIT press meet about him. We believed him and decided to honour him.” says Minu KK, a teacher at IHRD. Even his teachers at IHRD began doubting Arun’s claims recently. “He was a brilliant student, he didn’t need to do all this. We started getting doubts when he claimed his papers had been published by Nature magazine, but we could not find link.”

Though Minu and others met Arun on Tuesday, he stuck to his NASA claim and maintained he will go to NASA office in November 2014.

Sharanya Bharathwaj

Related article: http://www.britishsouthindians.co.uk/nasa-makes-exception-to-hire-an-indian-citizen-modi-impressed/

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