CHENNAI: The Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-Shar) in Sriharikota, about 100 km from Chennai, has become a Covid-19 hotspot. For the second day in a row, India’s spaceport has recorded around 31 new Covid-19 cases causing serious headache for the administration. A total of 90 people, who were primary and secondary contacts of infected persons, were tested of which 31 are diagnosed positive. On Monday, tests were conducted on another 60 persons, and the results are awaited, said Shar authorities.
Despite the sudden spurt in cases, Shar administration has decided not to suspend the operations and 50 per cent staff are asked to attend the duty. “The Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) works are going on in full swing. We are hopeful of launching maiden SSLV flight by end of this year,” a senior ISRO official said. Officials said, as per the current working modalities, only employees residing in SDSC-Shar housing colonies at Sriharikota and Sullurpeta are asked to attend the duties. Operation and maintenance contract employees residing in department colonies are called for duties based on essentiality of work. Construction works are also going on.
But, the people who are worst affected are the contract engineers residing outside Shar colonies. A contract employee said that he did not receive salary since last four months and with rising Covid-19 cases the possibility of a call back looks grim. Express reported last month on how third party firm supplying manpower for SDSC-Shar have begun sacking its employees. Over 100 contract employees working with Hyderabad-based Premier Explosives Limited (PEL) that handles operations and maintenance of Solid Propellant Plant inside SDSC-Shar were laid-off.
PEL said the Shar Central Level Review Committee recommended a reduction of total manpower considering the present situation and operational requirements. The company said it was unclear when SDSC-Shar would lift temporary reduction in manpower and get back to normalcy. “Going by the curtailed operational requirements, it was hard to guess a tentative date of restoring back to the original manpower strength.”