Scientists’ pay cut despite ISRO’s feats stuns India

ISRO scientists will no longer get a double hike in salaries as per the 1996 decision while also enjoying the PRIS incentives for performance

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New Delhi: The news of a considerable reduction in the salaries of scientists of ISRO soon after the space agency’s successful launch of the moon mission called Chandrayaan-2 has left the country gobsmacked. The issue was on Tuesday raised in Parliament by Congress MP Motilal Vora.

Vora said at a time when the whole country was congratulating ISRO scientists for the successful launch of Chandrayaan-2, it was surprising that the government had decided to reduce their salaries.

In 1996, the ISRO had implemented the higher salaries and the Supreme Court had ruled that the added income of the scientists be considered part of their salaries and not perks. The then President of India had approved of the double hike in the salaries of scientists to attract talent to the ISRO and motivate the existing scientists all the more. Based on these facts, Vora appealed to the government to desist from curtailing the income of ISRO scientists.

ScientistsCopies of the letter sent to the ISRO chief by the organisation’s engineers protesting against the government order to cut the salaries of space scientists appears to the right of this text. Days before the launch of Chandrayaan-2, the government had ordered a substantial reduction in the said salaries.

The order dated 12 June observes that the ISRO scientists had been enjoying two salary hikes since 1996. This motivational grant is being withdrawn, the order says.

Scientists pay cutThe Space Engineers Association (SEA), a union of scientists of the ISRO, have appealed to chief of the organisation K Sivan to help them pressure the government to reverse its decision. They pleaded that they had no other source of income besides their salaries.

SEA head A Maniraman wrote in the letter that a government employee’s salary could not be reduced until the situation turned grim. It warned that the move would demotivate the scientists. It said the staff members were rather surprised and sad about this development.

The Sixth Pay Commission had recommended that these salaries be left untouched. It said that the scientists must continue to enjoy these benefits.

The government order talks of the Performance-Related Incentive Scheme (PRIS), the Narendra Modi administration’s way of cutting costs and turning the public sector workforce more result-oriented, but the 1996 decision of a double upgrade of salaries for ISRO scientists cannot fall in the ambit of the new policy as PRIS did not affect the basic income of any government servant.

The government order, citing advices by the Ministry of Finance and expenses department, came into force with a retrospective effect of 12 days as it is applicable beginning 1 July. The PRIS alone will apply to the salaries from now on. The scientists of categories D, E, F and G are no longer benefiting from the 1996 double salary hike. Up to 90% of the ISRO workforce will lose up to Rs 10,000 a month due to the 12 July order. There is considerable resentment in the ranks of the space agency as a result.

Before the order, ISRO scientists were enjoying the fruits of the 1996 decision and getting incentives due to the PRIS as well. Notably, A, B, C, D, E, F and G is the increasing order of pay and designation grades in ISRO. A scientist enters ISRO in Grade C and needs to clear a test for every promotion. The 1996 decision used to be one of the inspirations for junior scientists to appear for tests to turn seniors.