The Congress on Thursday questioned the Narendra Modi government for cuts in the budgetary allocation for space missions and alleged delay in payment of salary to engineers who worked on the Chandrayaan-3 mission.
A day after the Congress sought to puncture the hype around Modi’s leadership for the achievement of landing on the moon by recalling how India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had created the key infrastructure for technological advancements, general secretary K.C. Venugopal raised critical questions about the government’s attitude towards science.
Venugopal tweeted: “The excitement and pride of Chandrayaan-3 will stay with us for a long time. Isro Chairman Dr Somanath’s leadership truly created history and we extend our hearty congratulations to him and his team. However, the Prime Minister must answer some (questions) for his hypocrisy. You were quick to come on screen and take credit after the landing, but why has your government failed so terribly in supporting the scientists and Isro?”
“Why did the HEC (Heavy Engineering Corporation, Ranchi) engineers who worked on Chandrayaan-3 not receive their salaries for the last 17 months? Why did you cut the budget for such crucial missions by 32%? These are the heroes of our country, they run a world-class space research programme, but you have no regard for their talent and hard work. To add insult to injury, you hogged the limelight when that moment was about the scientists’ achievements,” he added.
The department of space indeed suffered a slash in the budget this year. The biggest cut was for space technology, of Rs 1,093.84 crore, hitting Isro expenditures on development and operation projects involving satellites and launch vehicles.
Apart from Venugopal, Digvijaya Singh raised the issue of salaries. Reports suggested that HEC employees had suffered but chose to continue work on the Chandrayaan project without salary.
Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh had on Wednesday recalled how Indira Gandhi handled scientists with exceptional care and was responsive to their needs and demands.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy D.K. Shivakumar on Thursday called on Isro chairman Somanath and facilitated him. Sonia Gandhi also wrote to him, congratulating him for the achievement.
Sonia wrote: “Isro’s outstanding capabilities have been built up over decades. It has had remarkable leaders and a spirit of collective endeavour has always driven it. It’s being anchored on self-reliance since the early sixties that has contributed to its great successes.”