Tapan Misra, the jilted former chief of the Space Applications Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), took to social media recently to criticise the state of affairs at the space agency.
In a lengthy Facebook post, the scientist who was side-lined in 2018 by incumbent chairman K Sivan, took several jibes at ISRO’s leadership and work environment. He also fired tacit remarks on how the failure of Chandrayaan 2’s surface mission this month was handled.
When Sivan came to power in 2018, one of the first things he did was strip Misra of the powers vested in him by virtue of being the director of the SAC. He was demoted to become the ISRO chairman’s advisor, a position that spells no executive prowess.
Speculations and rumours abound the organisation at the time, with guesswork pointing at internal politics at times and Misra’s opposition to privatising the programme at other times.
Evidently aggrieved thus, Misra points out in his social media post, everything that is problematic about ISRO’s top-down work culture. Notably though, nowhere in his post has Misra taken direct potshots at the ISRO chairman. Making oblique references, he criticised Sivan’s inept handling of the Chandrayaan 2 mission and considering it a failure just because the Vikram lander crashed on the lunar surface instead of a soft touch down. Sivan, meanwhile, had also announced that Chandrayaan 2 was successful in completing 98% of its mission.
“Once you send machines to space, you cannot access it in-person to carry out corrective measures. You must be able to imagine all possible behaviours of spacecraft in space, in a harsh and unforgiving environment. So we have to test it in all possible imaginable conditions. We should test it in the sequence in which we fly to space,” Misra’s post read.
Later, he went on to talk about toxic work culture in the social media post and wrote: “Leaders inspire, they do not manage. When you see a sudden spurt in emphasis on adhering to rules, a sudden increase in paperwork, frequent meetings, unwinding discussions, you surely know leadership is becoming rare material in your institution. Institutions do not evolve with time as they stop innovating. Ultimately, they become living fossil, a footnote in history.”