ByJosy Joseph, TNN | Mar 13, 2013, 04.14 AM IST
NEW DELHI: A high profile campaign mounted to ensure an extension for the Defence Research and Development Organisation chief has failed to impress the government and it has decided not to extend the tenure of V K Saraswat, who is set to retire in May.
The decision is being seen as part of the ongoing effort to immediately roll out an ambitious roadmap to significantly improve indigenisation of military procurement, pull up military research and minimize corruption in defence deals. The unusual hurry has been brought about by embarrassing revelations about payment of over Rs 350 crore kickbacks in the VVIP helicopter scandal.
The government is finalising a proposal to amend the Defence Procurement Procedure to make ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ the first priority in defence procurement and thus bring in Indian private sector in a big way into defence manufacture.
There is also a move to remove software and advisory and consultancy services from the list of offset services that foreign defence companies can offer to India. Sources in the military establishment see the move to deny an extension to Saraswat as part of these efforts.
Over the past several months, there has been an aggressive effort by Saraswat and his well-wishers to secure an extension for the missile scientist. Among high profile persons to endorse Saraswat’s extension was former president and the most famous DRDO chief, A P J Abdul Kalam.
Sources said Kalam had sent an eloquent endorsement of Saraswat, who has also been actively seeking to stay in office for a longer period. Besides being the director general of DRDO, he is also the scientific advisor to the defence minister and secretary (defence research and development).
Saraswat’s tenure ran into trouble last year after a special financial audit of DRDO found many lacunae in the way financial powers were exercised by the DRDO chief. The defence ministry later found that a mid-2010 order issued to hike the financial powers of the DRDO chief went against the norms recommended by a high powered committee headed by former defence secretary and present CVC Pradeep Kumar.
The Pradeep Kumar committee had recommended several measures based on the report of Rama Rao committee for overhauling DRDO functioning and improving its efficiency. The financial powers were hiked selectively, but without getting CAG approval as had been recommended, the government later found.
The defence ministry in September 2012 issued an order saying the DRDO chief would take all financial decisions in consultation with the finance division of the ministry. The DRDO chief until then had autonomous power to grant financial approvals up to Rs 50 crore.
Sources said the government is also not happy with the progress made in implementing Rama Rao committee report. An immediate time-bound roadmap is expected for implementation of the report.