New Delhi: Funding cuts in the revised estimate for the space department’s key polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) and geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) projects has drawn criticism from Parliament’s standing committee on science, technology, environment and forests.

In a report released on Tuesday, the panel also pulled up the department for delays in implementing projects, including astronomy satellite Astrosat and a proposed human space flight programme.

The report identified technical hurdles and project delays as the reasons for India lagging behind China in many areas of space science.

The report stressed the need for greater industry participation in space programme and promotion of indigenous capabilities in related manufacturing. The panel was also critical of the space department for not putting in place a national committee to enhance industry participation.

Although the space department is capable of using 100% of its allocated grants, it has faced cuts in grants at the revised estimate stage in successive financial years, the panel noted. “This would delay or disrupt some of its programmes of strategic importance to the country," said the report.

The fund cuts come at a time when some important launches of PSLV are scheduled during 2015-16. For the PSLV project, the budgetary estimate allocation of 390 crore was reduced to 71.50 crore in 2014-15 in the revised estimate.

There were concerns regarding the GSLV project for which budgetary allocation of 180.1 crore in 2014-15 was reduced to 107 crore due to delay in buying hardware and sub-systems for the first developmental flight.

The committee recommended that the space department utilize the allocated amount efficiently and in time to have minimal cuts at the revised estimate stage so that PSLV and GSLV launches proceed smoothly.

Noting that the launch of RISAT-1A launch schedule had been revised from 2017-18 to 2019, the committee said that hardly any progress had been made in the development of RISAT-1A and the project report is yet to be submitted for necessary approvals. “It is unacceptable that such projects are being repeatedly delayed on account of stated challenges and reasons that can early be addressed," the report said.

On the human spaceflight programme, the committee has sought reasons for the underutilization of the allocated funds during the last two years and the manner in which the allocated amount of 21.50 crore was proposed to be utilized during 2015-16.

“It is true that much more needs to be done, the government can change the way funds are allocated and provide more flexibility to organisations like Isro and DRDO regarding the way funds are utilized," said Ajey Lele, research fellow at New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. “But one must understand technology development is not well-defined and if parameters of technology are not met, then just meeting deadlines is not enough,"

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