Who Shrunk ISRO

Lalit Shastri

Newsroom24x7 has published a series of exclusive stories exposing how leadership deficit in ISRO has retarded the progress of India’s space programme in recent years. We have also unearthed scams and serious irregularities in ISRO – most of it during the tenure of Dr K Sivan, the Present Secretary Department of Space and ex-officio Chairman ISRO. After repeated extensions in service, everyone connected with ISRO is now asking wheher or not Sivan, who was given a one-year extension last year, will get one more extension. Sivan is due to retire on 14 January 2022.

Sivan can be given another extension only for 6 months as he cannot remain in Government of India service after attaining the maximum permissible age of 65.

Questions are being asked in knowledgeable circles whether or not Sivan would himself seek or accept extension for another six months because everyone knows that if he takes extension, he would be playing the most uncomfortable role of presiding over the disbanding of a lot that has been built over long years by committed and ditinguished scientists for ISRO and India’s space programme. For the gullible all this would be normal since private players have been allowed entry into the space sector and, with passage of time, no one will ask “Who shrunk ISRO”. The knowledgeable would prefer to ignore and the less informed will never know that approval for private sector participation by the Modi Cabinet was approved apparently by:

  • falling standards of leadership when it came to steering India’s space programme coupled with intolerance of bright colleagues
  • poorer mission quality (like poor image quality and mispointing of many flagship remote sensing satellites)
  • mission failures like Chandrayan 2 lander and GSAT 6A
  • NAVIC atomic clock failure
  • public spectacle of attempt to stall India’s first HTS GSAT 11, which ultimately had to be launched but with escalated cost
  • loss in focus in application of remote sensing data and stalling the easy availability of Remote Sensing data to multiple users
  • lack of action in Gaganyaan programme.

The present ISRO leadership has falsely tried to take the credit for the space sector reform process set in motion by the Cabinet presided by Prime Minister Modi. In fact, the present dispensation virtually scuttled the privatisation move and had issued only an expression of interest in 2019. It also closed the small satellite program and virtually killed most of the societal applications.

Furthermore, when the Space Sector is being opened up, it needs, along with a strong legal framework, a regulatory mechanism that should not become 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, an institution like ISRO should not be broken up and allowed to get swallowed by corporates that are eyeing it’s considerable manpower, assets and intellectual property.

Already we have a scenario where Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) has been set up to act as an autonomous body, under Department of Space (DoS), as a single window nodal agency for enabling and regulating space activities and usage of ISRO facilities by NGPEs.

  • Importantly, IN-SPACe will work out a suitable mechanism to offer sharing of technology, expertise and facilities on free of cost wherever feasible or at reasonable cost basis to promote NGPEs.
  • IN-SPACe will act as an autonomous body, under DOS, as a single window nodal agency for enabling and regulating space activities and usage of ISRO facilities by NGPEs.
  • IN-SPACe will also permit establishment of facilities, within ISRO premises, based on safety norms and feasibility assessment.
  • The marketing, sharing and dissemination of remote sensing data shall be governed by Remote sensing policy. Each application requiring examination as per new policy will be examined and permitted by IN-SPACE factoring legal and security aspects.
  • The decision of IN-SPACe shall be final and binding on all stakeholders including ISRO. NGPEs will not be required to seek separate permission from ISRO.

It is too well known that many satellites were launched by ISRO with 2 to 5 years lag in setting up of ground segments. The aborted GISAT-1 launch exposed the disconnect with user departments. The lid is now off as the termination of funding and projects by user departments and security agencies a couple of months ago has put a question mark on the continuity in service of about of 6000 engineers beyond March 2022 . According to available information, these enginners, working on adhoc basis, have got a temporary lease of life due to funding available from Government of India’s consolidated fund. In the meanwhile all ISRO launches have been put on the backburner and there is a strong likelihood that under the prevailing cicumstances, senior engineers and scienstists would be left with no option but to seek voluntary retirement.

CHECK: What ails ISRO


  1. Why GoI took a decision to form INSPACe when already ANTRIX was available to handle requests from users?
    Belittling the efforts of ISRO is uncalled for and downgrading ISRO Scientists/Engineers vis-a-vis private players is uncalled for & there could be serious security issues


  2. It is unfortunate that it appears that every step forward that India makes, it eventually takes two steps backward. This must be distressing for Indians (domestic & foreign) to witness, and to continually witness. How can this be solved? It seems even the solid leadership of PM Modi cannot stop this inertia. Anyway, I look forward to any successes of this amazing Nation!


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