Tehseen Poonawalla claims ISRO scientists have not received salaries for three months: How he is wrong

Tehseen Poonawalla claims ISRO scientists have not received salaries for three months: How he is wrong


On 15th August, famous podcaster and YouTuber Beerbiceps released an almost 2-hour episode of “The Ranveer Show” with pro-Congress columnist and businessman Tehseen Poonawalla. During the podcast, Poonawalla made two bizarre claims and challenged Ranveer to fact-check him if he was wrong. He claimed for three months, ISRO scientists were not paid salaries and India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, has done nothing in the field of Quantum Computing.

He said, “You know when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister, we built our second supercomputer. Few countries in the world have a supercomputer. India is one of them. Why aren’t we building a Quantum Computer? I know Google’s doing it. You know that America is doing it. You know China is doing it. We know that now. Why isn’t India doing it? Do we not have the technology? What are we talking about today?”

He added, “Let me be brutally critical of the BJP. Who is living with who, who’s doing not, who’s eating what meat… How does that matter? Why aren’t we talking about Quantum Computing because that is going to redefine the world as we know it? It’s going to redefine our space securities. It could redefine everything. Why aren’t we doing it? Do we not have the capability?”

When Ranveer said he thinks somewhere someone might be doing and assumed the same for all the governments, Tehseen then made the false claim about ISRO scientists not getting paid and said, “They haven’t paid ISRO salaries for the last three months. ISRO scientists haven’t been paid salaries for the last three months. Is that fair? And that’s my issue with this government. We’re very proud of ISRO. It’s a great organization. Three-month salaries have not been paid and feel free to fact-check me on this.”

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla, who happens to be the brother of Tehseen, took on X (formerly Twitter) to challenge Tehseen to give a list of ten scientists from ISRO who did not get a salary for three months. In a post, he said, “Since you offered to be “fact-checked” Could you kindly elaborate on the names, designation of any 10 “ISRO scientists” (just 10) who haven’t been paid salaries (by the Modi govt) in the last 3 months, as claimed by you (& the Congress Jamaat)? Your video is extremely clear. Kindly back it up with facts.

“Since I’m aware you will now shift goal-posts, twist words, and justify your claim by making childish analogies- let me just leave it at this PS: NO MATTER HOW POLISHED & REASONABLE THEY PRETEND TO BE – THEY HATE NARENDRA MODI & THEY BAT FOR DYNASTS LIKE RAHUL & PRIYANKA. Don’t get swayed by their re-packaging. Beneath this facade, they are all the same. You can check who all peddled this lie along with Tehseen Poonawalla.”

In a reply to Shehzad, Tehseen said, “First: you can tweet without being personal or bitter! Second: No one hates the PM especially not me. So please chill. Third: It is Engineers and the below people still stand by the story as opposed to an RW website that counters the news. So kindly ask the government to clarify!” He then continued and shared a few links to websites like The Wire, CNBC TV 18, Outlook India, News 18, and Ahmedabad Mirror where they reported that the engineers who built the launchpad for Chandrayan 3 were not paid their salaries.

This is where Tehseen got it completely wrong. When Chandrayan 3 was launched in July 2023, reports came out that engineers who worked on the launchpad did not get salaries for months. Many media houses either concealed the facts or used clickbait headlines making it look as if ISRO did not pay salaries to its scientists. The fact is, those engineers worked for one of many suppliers for ISRO, i.e. Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC) which is a PSU and currently facing financial trouble. At that time, many media houses and troll accounts made that claim that seems to have stuck with Tehseen.

For those who are unaware, HEC is a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Heavy Industries. It is located in the Dhurwa area of Ranchi, Jharkhand. For over 2-3 years, the company has been facing a financial crisis, and the issue of non-payment has come up in the news reports multiple times over time.

In May 2023, it was reported that for over 14 months, around 2,700 workmen and 450 executives did not get their salaries. In April 2023, office-grade workers received salaries for February 2022, and workmen got half of their pay for May 2022. HEC did not work directly on Chandrayaan-3 but was one of the suppliers that provided different elements for the project. HEC’s job was to build the launchpad. Our detailed fact-check on the matter can be seen here.

Replying to Tehseen, Shehzad said, “Aah! The “shifting goal post” manoeuvre. I had warned everyone of this. I asked for names, and designations of 10 ISRO SCIENTISTS (which you repeated confidently) who were not paid salaries, as claimed by you, in the last 3 months. Now you shift to “engineers” who aren’t from ISRO! And you want us to clarify every half-truth, full lies WhatsApp you get from your Jamaat. Nobody is getting personal! You asked Beerbicerps to fact-check you. I fact-checked your Jamaat. Happy New Year. Love to Zurwan.”

Tehseen, sticking to his claims, said, “Again please see attached in my tweet above are specific news items wrt salaries not being paid! Okay, so it’s engineers… as if that makes it better! PS: the only scientist that I know is our Hon’ble PM who can make planes escape radar detection when cloudy & can email pictures of Advani ji before Digital cameras were commercial in India & Emails were for everyone! ZURVAN sends love.” While taking a dig at PM Modi, Tehseen again missed the point that it was not ISRO’s engineers but engineers of HEC which is just a contractor for ISRO like many others.

Debunking the claims, PIB Fact Check said ISRO scientists get their salaries on the last day of the month.

India and Quantum Computers

Another claim that Tehseen made was that India is doing nothing in the field of Quantum Computing which is completely false. In April 2023, the Government of India approved the National Quantum Mission to scale up scientific and industrial R&D for quantum technologies. The total cost of Rs 6003.65 crores applied for the mission will be spent in five years from 2023-24 to 2030-31. The aim is to seed, nurture and scale up scientific and industrial R&D and create a vibrant & innovative ecosystem in Quantum Technology (QT).

One of the major initiatives by the government of India in the field is the MeitY Quantum Computing Applications Lab which was launched by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in collaboration with AWS. It aims to accelerate the adoption of Quantum computing in India by providing access to quantum computers, tools and resources to developers and researchers.

In the 2020-21 budget, the GoI proposed to spend Rs 8,000 crore on the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (NMQTA) and Rs 3660 Crore for the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS). Interestingly, NM-ICPS was approved by the Union Cabinet in 2018.

Quantum Technology frontiers in India include Quantum Information and Computing lab, TIFAC, Indian Institute of Science, ISRO, DRDO, IIT Bombay, TIFR and IISER & CDAC which is funded by NM-QTA. More details can be checked here.





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