ISRO and the path to reform the space sector

Lalit Shastri

The wheels of the government machinery move quite fast during crisis situation. One such move is the reorganization of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) by the government of India. The Finance Minister has announced in her economic package that the Private Sector will be allowed to compete on a level playing field in the Space Sector. Other reforms also may be on the anvil such as splitting the post of Secretary Department of Space (DoS) and chairman ISRO and shifting the DoS secretariat (HQ) from Bengaluru to Delhi, corporatising the assets of ISRO in a public sector company and making ISRO a pure R&D set up. Allowing of the Private Sector participation in the space programme is a welcome move. Despite the PM’s assurance on the floor of the Parliament that the first PSLV from the industry would fly in 2020, ISRO never really got its act together and tenders are a far cry as there was tremendous resistance from the top. Obviously, if change doesn’t come from within, the government will naturally be forced to act. The same is true of the Space Activities Bill which was ready in 2016 and whose circulation was approved by the Space Commission and the even the PMO. The draft once again was put through a group of scientists with a myopic view and the draft BIll now bears no resemblance to the original. Make no mistake, if the Space Sector has to be opened up, it needs a strong legal framework with an even stronger independent regulatory mechanism – not one which becomes a sinecure for retired ISRO scientists. It is also necessary to ensure there is no geo-spatial information cartel of ex-ISRO functionaries. At the same time, a trail blazing institution like ISRO should not be broken up and swallowed by corporates that are eyeing it’s considerable manpower, assets and intellectual property.


6 thoughts on “ISRO and the path to reform the space sector”

  1. Dear Lalit Shastri
    I am happy that you haves touched the key issues
    Your conclusion is excellent
    The real hurdle is lack of a comprehensive space policy and legal frame work
    Last two years ISRO had been working onindustrilisation of satellites and launch vehicles
    Sad fact is that no industry has come forward to take up this challenge They are all happy to produce subsystems on a cost plus basis
    While appreciating your concluding remarks hope the Govt will not rock the boat of breaking up Isro which is the best performing agency in the country under govt set up
    Madhavan Nair


    1. Dear Dr.G.Madhavan Nair,


      1) For your kind information, when you are Chairman – ISRO , Mr.Bhojaraj , who is a Mechanical Engineer ( worked in Thermal Testing Division) was promoted as Controller (Finance and Administration) at ISRO Satellite centre ( Two years priors to his superannuation). Dont you think it was a wrong decision????

      A Mechanical Engineer who spend up to 58 years of age in Satellite Thermal testing division , all at a sudden at the age of 58 years will he magically acquire capabilities of Senior Indian Revenue Service Officer????. Does it provides justice to the profession of Managing thousand of crores of public tax paid money??/

      Your own retirement proceedings (Gratuity , PF etc) , will you Invest in some low graded / unrecognised / Unprofessionally managed financial Institution???? . I know the answer is ‘ Never’ , because its your hard earned money.

      Why not the same concern is shown when handling Governament Money????

      I have lot of respect for you personally for your Scientific achievements, My intension here is not to hurt you , NOT to damage your reputation . My concern is only about efficient Management of Public Tax paid funds.

      2) This mistake is not only during your chairmanship , even during the Chairmanship of Mr.Kiran Kumar and Mr.Sivan , same heritage is followed.

      Dr.Anand Kumar Sharma ( MSC + Phd in chemical coating) who spend up to 56 years in Satellite Panel Chemical coating domain was posted to the post of Controller (Finance and Administration) at the age of 58 years.

      ISRO is under the control of Prime Minister (To the best of my Knowledge) , was it difficult for Central Govt to transfer an IRS / IAS officer quoting public Interest (In worst scenario).

      Professional over confidence of Senior Management in ISRO Head quarters is the cause for such wrong decisions and it indicates the care they are giving to public tax paid funds.

      If a person who dont know any thing about Human resource Management can become HR Head at the age of 59 years , a person from Mechanical Engineering back ground can become Controller (Finance and Administtration) at the age of 58 years , then why cant MBBS Doctor of ISRO Dispensary can conduct Heart / brain surgery , quoting that I know how a heart and brain function.?????

      NOTE : My Intension here is NOT to damage reputation of ISRO , NOT to damage personal reputation of Present and Former Chairman-ISRO ( or) in general NOT to damage the reputation of any Employee of ISRO (Including Mr.Bhojaraj , Dr.Anand Kumar Sharma and Doctors of ISRO Dispensary).

      Please Manage Human Resources and Public Tax paid funds with care , with the same care you are giving for your own money.



  2. Dear Mr.Lalit Shastri,

    1) You have correctly mentioned in your article “ISRO and the path to reform the space sector- May -June 2020 ” about proposed Space Activities Bill.. Your concern that the proposed bill ” not one which becomes a sinecure for retired ISRO scientists” is appreciable. The culture of nourishing senior most retired peoples at ISRO Head Quarters should be stopped completely.Even some Retired Officials are provided with Commando Security to the best of my knwoledge.

    One should remember that ISRO is a giant Organization and is not depending on few retired officials. Youngsters should be encouraged in a proper and professional way to take up responsibilities.

    2) ISRO is lagging in proper HR policies and undeserving candidates are nourished through complimentary promotion systems.

    A Diploma Mechanical Engineer working in satellite testing up to 58 years , will become Human Resource Division Head using his influence and frame policies governing 2500 Employees. If any one can do any job , how do one can expect accountability for Public tax paid funds??

    3) Other Instance , a Scientist who worked in Chemical coating division ( Chemistry + Doctoral in chemical coating) up to 56 years was elevated exponentially and was simultaneously given multiple positions like Deputy Director, Chief General Manager , Associate Director and also Finance controller ( which was generally handled by Indian Revenue Service Officers). If a Chemistry person was given Finance controller position , how do one can expect accountability for Public tax paid funds??, is he really capable of providing justic to the post of Finace controller ???

    If a Chemistry person can handle the responsibilities of Indian revenue Service officer , that too at the age of 58 or 59 years and control thousands of crores of public tax paid money , why cant MBBS doctor in ISRO dispensary can do cardiac and complicated surgery???.. Does any one is willing to take such treatment ??? Never, for every one their health and well being is most Important .

    Same is applicable when handling over responsibilities which has impact on public tax paid funds. Senior Management should think of well being of public money also.


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