As ISRO Reached for the Moon, Its Scientists Faced Pay Cuts

The order came just about a month before the launch of the Chandrayaan 2.

New Delhi: Even as India is heaping praise on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the (partial) success of its Chandrayaan 2 mission, scientists at the space agency are reportedly protesting a reduction in salary.

According to Sirf News, a June 12 order withdrew the motivational and promotional grants provided by a 1996 decision that approved of double hikes in salaries. The Supreme Court had issued the order two decades ago to encourage scientists to join ISRO’s ranks and to motivate those already in the employ of the space agency.

Also read: The Farther Away From Chandrayaan, the Pettier the Winds Blow

The June 12 order came just about a month before the launch of the Chandrayaan 2 mission – which was pushed from the initial July 15 launch date after scientists discovered a glitch at the 56th minute before launch. The order came into force on July 1 and has resulted in over 90% of the workforce of ISRO losing up to Rs 10,000 a month.

Congress MP Motilal Vora also raised the issue in Parliament on July 30. He informed the Rajya Sabha that the additional increment had been implemented by the Department of Space in 1996 following the Supreme Court’s order, in which the apex court had said the increment should be treated as “payroll” in a manner. Vora appealed to the Rajya Sabha to get the government to stop deducting the salaries of ISRO scientists.

Scientists at the space agency haven’t taken too kindly to the move. Saying they are entirely dependant on the salaries they receive and have no other means of earning money to support their families, the Space Engineers Association (SEA), a union within ISRO, penned an appeal to ISRO chairman K. Sivan at the end of July to help petition the government to withdraw its recent decision.

Also read: 5 Unique Space Science Missions That ISRO Will Be Flying in the Near Future

Warning that the move could demotivate scientists – the very opposite of what the 1996 decision intended – the letter, signed by SEA president A. Maniraman, said the staff had been saddened as a result. The letter also mentions how the Sixth Pay Commission had recommended that the salaries of scientists be left untouched.

According to Sirf News, the government order talks of the performance-related incentive scheme (PRIS), which it says should not affect the 1996 decision of the double increments for ISRO staffers, because PRIS does not affect the basic income of any government servant.

At ISRO, ranks are divided into the A, B, C, D, E, F and G categories. To climb the pay as well as designation ladders, each scientist must pass a test.