While India is celebrating and feeling immensely proud of the work done by Scientists and Engineers at ISRO in the Chandrayaan 2 Mission; the same scientists and engineers have received pay cuts in 2019 for their hard work.
When Chandrayaan 2 finally hit the Lunar orbit, a wave of ecstasy ran across India. Led by the Prime Minister, the country rejoiced in the feat. A nation united by the feat of Chandrayaan 2 affirmed solidarity with ISRO when it lost contact with the Vikram Lander craft minutes before it was due to touch down on the Moon’s south pole.
India backed ISRO in unison and celebrated the feat of Chandrayaan 2, but scientists and engineers in the space agency suffered a pay cut in July 2019.
But in the run-up the iconic event that got nationwide coverage, the scientists and space engineers were fighting on another front. Ahead of the Chandrayaan 2 launch, ISRO suffered a pay cut when its increments as per a 1996 resolution were discontinued in June 2019. Unfortunately, this news about ISRO failed to gain the same kind of mind space from the country.
ISRO Scientists suffered a Pay Cut right before Chandrayaan 2 went to the Moon
The order that came on June 12th withdrew the increments which stem from a 1996 decision that directed motivational and promotional grants towards ISRO employees. The decision had resulted in doubling hikes in salaries.
As per an Office Memorandum, the two additional increments given to scientists and engineers (grade SD, SE, SF, and SG) in 1996 were discontinued from July 1st, 2019. The ranks at ISRO are divided into A, B, C, D, E, F, and G categories. Promotions depend on tests for Scientists and Engineers.
When the order came, Congress MP Motilal Vora voiced it in the Rajya Sabha (July 30th). As per Vora in the Parliament, the additional increment was enforced by the Department of Space in 1996 on the Apex Court’s order. The Supreme Court stated that the said increment will be treated as ‘payroll’.
This has made ISRO’s Scientists and Engineers come out in Angst
As per reports in media, the order has resulted in a reduction of an average of Rs. 10,000 per month in salaries for 90 percent of ISRO’s employees. This is ironic, considering the love and blessing showered in the Chandrayaan 2 moments should have resulted in some form of bonus remuneration for ISRO’s scientists.
Reports opine that the number of senior staff members such as scientists and engineers at ISR) who have been treated to the pay cut for their efforts number in thousands. This has caused them to stand up and express their discontent which is a sentiment shared across ranks.
Space Engineers Association (SEA) has come out in protest against the central government’s decision. However, when reached out by media, K Santhosh Kumar, general secretary of SEA refused to comment, saying the matter was “internal”.
SEA president A Manimaran has opined that PRIS to Engineers is different from additional increments. While one is an incentive and other is pay so both cannot be said to be supplements to one another.
What does an Unhappy Scientist Lobby mean?
As per reports, ISRO’s scientists have been extremely unhappy with the decision. The employees at ISRO work fulltime and are dependent on their salaries in entirety to support themselves and their families.
The move from the Supreme Court in 1996 was itself directed to encourage more scientists to join ISRO’s ranks. As India’s space agency suffered from a talent shortage, the move was made to infuse motivation to existing ISRO employees and drive recruitment of brighter minds.
The decision is at the extreme opposite end of the 1996 move and its impact can completely reverse the trend.
SEA president A. Maniraman has opined that the move could prove disastrous and demotivate the scientific community at ISRO. As per A. Maniraman, the ISRO staff was disappointed and discontent with the decision. Moreover, the petition also cited that the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations included that salaries of scientists should be left untouched.
Does India really care about ISRO?
The move in 1996 approved two additional increment grants. These were intended for SD to SG grade ranks in the Department of Space. The pre-revised pay scale for beneficiaries was Rs 10,000-15,200, Rs 12,000-16,500, Rs 14,300 18,300 and Rs 16,400-20,000.
When ISRO’s Chandrayaan 2 mission was about to touch down on the Moon, the country had all its focus and encouragement behind them. The country saw prayers and millions of wishes directed towards the agency with lines like “Proud of ISRO” and “India stands by you ISRO” trending on social media and news channels.
However, the news of them suffering from pay cuts did not gather any momentum on national television or press. It may be argued that the cause of ISRO’s scientists and engineers would have gained more strength if the Vikram Lander had been successful in the soft landing it was intended to make on the south pole of the Moon.
News of ISRO’s workforce suffering from pay cuts did not gather much momentum on national television or press.
The mission wasn’t completely successful, but still was a massive leap in India’s space credentials. But the move to discontinue the 1996 decision and hack their salaries could prove disastrous in the long run and mar the current upward trajectory of the Indian Space Agency.