To tell or not to tell...: After kicking up controversy, ISRO chairman withdraws tell-all memoir

In the detailed memoir that delves deep into his life in the space organisation, Somanath reportedly levelled a slew of charges against his predecessor.
ISRO chairman S Somanath. (Photo | Shashidhar Byrappa)
ISRO chairman S Somanath. (Photo | Shashidhar Byrappa)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the wake of certain controversial remarks even before his book hit the stands, ISRO chairman S Somanath withdrew his autobiography. Scheduled to be released at the Sharjah Book Festival on Sunday, the work titled ‘Nilavu Kudicha Simhangal’ (Lions that Drank Moonlight) reportedly contained a couple of remarks against former ISRO chairman S Sivan. The book has also pointed out certain lapses regarding the failure of Chandrayaan-2.

Somanath told TNIE that he decided to withdraw the book due to “unnecessary controversies, which was not the purpose of the book.” He, however, confirmed that there was no directive from the Union ministry in this regard. Somanath directed Lipi Publications which brought out the memoir in Malayalam to withdraw the same.

In the detailed memoir that delves deep into his life in the space organisation, Somanath reportedly levelled a slew of charges against his predecessor. Reports quoting certain excerpts from the book suggest that Sivan might have attempted to prevent Somanath from getting appointments including that of ISRO chairman.

The book reportedly says that in 2018 when Kiran Kumar’s tenure ended as ISRO chairman, he was hopeful of making it to the top post. However, Sivan was chosen. Even after becoming the chairman, Sivan was reluctant to leave the post of VSSC Director. Only after certain interventions by the ex-director, was he posted as the VSSC director after six months.  It also mentions how Sivan attempted to get his tenure extended before his retirement.  

Speaking to TNIE, Somanath however reiterated that his book contained absolutely no such statement that K Sivan had tried to prevent him from becoming the ISRO chairman. “The mention about the six-month-delay in being appointed as the VSSC director is a factual mistake. It’s an error that somehow crept into the book. In fact there was only a couple of weeks’ delay. What I said (about someone else being appointed as member of the Space Commission) was that I was sad about it, as my chances (of becoming the chairman) suddenly turned bleak. I haven’t blamed him (K Sivan),” he said. Somanath added that in view of the the controversies, he had asked the publication to put the book on hold.

He has also reportedly mentioned lack of clarity regarding the announcement of the failure of Chandrayaan-2 mission under Sivan. During the time of landing, it was not clearly stated that there was communication failure and it would crashland. The book reportedly speaks about the Chandrayaan-2 project. K Sivan made many changes in the project that was started by Kiran. “I believe that it is a good practice to tell what actually happened on the ground. That would help increase transparency within the organisation. Hence the reference to that particular incident in the book,” he told the media.

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