The myth called ISRO and the fictitious post of ISRO Chairman

Lalit Shastri

Who created the myth called ISRO and the associated post of Chairman ISRO and why? This is a big question that the Department of Space (DoS) will have to answer in national and larger public interest.

Newsroom24x7 has done extensive research and as per available information no Government of India order exists for the establishment of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The Government of India web directory points to Science and Technology and on clicking that head one is taken not to the Department of Space but to the ISRO website

The ISRO website refers to the contribution of Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the founding father of the space programme in India. The introduction to the space programme and its “Genesis” suddenly jumps to ISRO, without informing details about its formation. The write up only points to how “ISRO was clear that it need not wait for its own satellites to begin application development, while foreign satellites could be used in the initial stages….”

It is relevant to state that the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai in 1962 to carry forward the Indian Space Programme. This Committee was set up by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) under the Department of Atomic Energy. Dr. Homi Bhabha, was instrumental in creation of this committee.

ISRO website, on its page titled “Department of Space and ISRO HQ” states: “Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was established in August 1969. The Government of India constituted the Space Commission and established the Department of Space (DOS) in June 1972 and brought ISRO under DOS in September 1972.” It also says that the Secretariat of DOS and ISRO Headquarters are located at Antariksh Bhavan in Bangalore.

At another place, the wiki page on Department of Space says “In 1969, (INCOSPAR) was reconstituted as an advisory body under the Indian National Science Academy and the Indian Space Research Organisation was established.

The Prime Minister of India holds the portfolio of Department of Space (DoS) and under this department is the Space Commission.

Notwithstanding the pointer (by ISRO website) that ISRO was established in 1969, Newsroom24x7 has gathered that there is no speaking order by the government of India regarding the setting up of ISRO as an organisation. Question also arises, how could INCOSPAR, a Committee set up by AEC, be converted into an organisation under a separate department without a GoI order or the approval the Union Finance Ministry.

It is also intriguing as no reason has been cited and put in the public domain by ISRO to inform the people of India, why ISRO did not celebrate the Golden Jubilee of its formation in 2019.

Also, successive Government of India orders for the appointment of Secretary Department of Space and Chairman Space Commission do not mention or refer to the appointment of Chairman ISRO. In fact till date there is not a single GoI order for appointing any person for the post of Chairman, ISRO. There is also no standing order to establish that the Secretary DoS is the ex-officio Chairman, ISRO. As an automatic corollary to this, one could even conclude that both ISRO and post of Chairman, ISRO are myths and do not have a legal or mandatory status.

It needs to be emphasised that all DOS Centres were created and their manpower allocation has been done by GOI office orders, after due ratification by Ministry of Finance.

All Directors of DOS centres report to Secretary, DOS. Hence, as per GOI norms, they are to be selected by a search committee from a set of applicants both from inside and outside DOS. As per GOI norms, these selections are to be ratified by Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC).

Therefore, prima facie, it appears that the vested interests have created the myth of ISRO and Chairman ISRO to subvert the GOI requirement of ACC approval for appointment of Directors of DOS Centres like Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Space Applications Centre (SAC), U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), and Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC).

The mythical ISRO Chairman is expected to be reporting to Secretary DOS and hence ISRO Chairman’s appointment should be approved by the ACC. By another myth, Secretary DOS holds concurrent position of Chairman, ISRO and hence requirement of selection of Chairman, ISRO is assumed to be met.

Another lie that has been spread is that the Centre Directors report to Chairman, ISRO and they meet under the aegis of ISRO Council, a body without any locus standii. Hence, as they (Centre Directors) are kept two levels below Secretary DOS, their appointments are not to be ratified by ACC. In the process, they are at the mercy of a “fictitious ISRO Chairman”.

This irregularity was allowed to be proliferated since Satish Dhawan’s tenure as Secretary DoS. Hence, all appointments of DOS Centre Directors are illegal as they flout GOI norms. In fact transfer between centres is also illegal as they also need to be ratified by GOI.

Because of this apparent falsehood, there is rampant flouting of GOI norms.

Under the prevailing circumstances, the first step towards correcting the malaise that has crept into DOS should be to ensure strict enforcement of GOI norms and bring transparency and meritocracy back to DOS to rejuvenate India’s space programme.

Newsroom24x7 has asked DoS to provide complete details regarding the establishment of ISRO and appointments of successive Chairmen of ISRO to clear all confusion regarding ISRO.

Watch this video – the word ISRO has not been used even once.

2 replies

  1. MGK Menon wanted to father India’s space programme as INCOSPAR was under TIFR and Menon created the myth of ISRO so that he handles space programme. In fact he was looking after INCOSPAR after Vikram Sarabhai died. He himself created the myth of ISRO and headed ISRO for six months after Sarabhai’s death by virtue of being Director of TIFR. But Mrs. Indira Gandhi, on the advice of PN Haksar, separated the space programme from TIFR, made DOS and Space Commision and Prof. Satish Dhawan was installed as the first secretary of DOS. But Menon maintained the myth of ISRO, got himself installed as Chairman of Governing Council of Physical Research Laboratory and tried to enter DOS as ISRO Chairman and wanted to capture DOS .

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