By Pradip R Sagar
Published: 26th Apr 2015 06:00:00 AM -The Sunday Standard
It’s akin to contract killing of the country’s defence research establishments. With their easy access to classified and secret information, thousands of people working on contractual or temporary basis in India’s top secret defence projects have turned out to be the biggest threat to national security. A spate of arrests for spying has alarmed the government. But the country’s premier defence research agency—Defence Research and Development Organisation—has a strength of more than 50,000 temporary or casual employees who have complete access to all its classified and research activities.
The recent arrest of a photographer employed on contractual basis at DRDO’s Integrated Test Range in Chandipur (Odisha) for passing confidential information on various missiles test-fired from Wheeler Island to his ISI conduit in Kolkata has raised the alarm bells in the corridors of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Soon after, a contractual employee working for the MoD was picked up by the Delhi Police for espionage. The issue put South Block in panic mode and an alert was issued in March, which clearly said that ‘Contractual/ casual employees should not be posted in sensitive locations and not allowed to given access to the classified information’.
A senior defence ministry official recalled how a high-level inquiry was ordered during AK Antony’s tenure as defence minister in 2010 into the episode of giving out a critical missile design project to a private contractor by a top DRDO scientist.
Despite such cases in the past, over 55 laboratories of the DRDO, mandated to develop products and technologies to modernise our armed forces ranging from missiles to combat aircraft, have roped in over 50,000 casual employees to assist scientists. According to an insider, contractual employees are generally hired under two categories—technical and non-technical.