Thursday, 15 January 2015 – 7:05am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna
Jyotika Sood, Iftikhar Gilani
Three major complaints against Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief Avinash Chander, including two anonymous ones, were pending before the Prime Minister’s Office in November 2014, when he was given a contract of 16 months on his retirement. It is reliably learnt that investigations into the complaints went against him and thus he was summarily sacked two months after the extension in service.
What were the complaints about?
According to RTI by Uttarakhand-based Prabhu Dandriyal in December 2014, and accessed by dna, PMO had stated that it had received three complaints against Avinash Chander. The details of the two complaints could not be ascertained. The third complaint was filed by R K Gupta of Advance System Laboratory, Hyderabad. According to PMO sources, Gupta had made an allegation against DRDO chief Avinash Chander for favouring his junior. Gupta was apparently superseded by his junior scientist by bending the rules, sources added.
Why was the PM peeved?
Chander had to face PM’s ire also because of the mess in the DRDO. As per the PMO estimates losses worth around Rs 29,000 crore were accrued due to time and cost overruns in acquisitions/developmental projects. For example, the indigenous Aircraft Carrier will now cost Rs 19,341 crore from its original cost of Rs 3,241 crore. Similarly, in case of the Stealth Guided Missile Destroyer, the cost has been revised from Rs 3,850 crore to Rs 11,662 crore and timelines have been revised from 2010-11 to 2015-16.
What did dna report highlight?
In December, dna had exposed how Parliament Standing Committee on defence had rapped up DRDO for its shoddy research, inordinate delays, corruption and its fancy for reverse engineering.
What’s Parrikar’s justification for sacking Chander?
On Wednesday, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said, “It was my recommendation that the DRDO chief’s post should be held by a young person and not by someone on contract.”
Interestingly, the government has taken action against Chander, but there are many more scientists in DRDO working under extension rules even after their retirement. As on September 1, 2014, around ten scientists in category of distinguished scientists i.e. special secretary level and over a dozen scientists on grade H — outstanding scientists i.e. additional secretary level – are still working in DRDO. But no termination orders have come against them.
The government’s reason seems to be also ironical as it has recently appointed Vijay Kumar Saraswat, former DRDO chief, as full-time member of newly formed Niti Aayog. Saraswat had worked as DRDO director general post 60 years. He had got an extension of two + two years and finally retired on May 31, 2013. Saraswat is Chander’s predecessor and according to a senior scientist in DRDO, “both have ideological differences which was known to scientific fraternity.”
What are Chander’s credentials?
Avinash Chander is an IIT Delhi graduate and joined DRDO in August 1972. He has won several awards, including DRDO medal for scientist of the year for AGNI I, and is called the chief architect of the long range ballistic missiles in India. He had retired on November 1, 2014 but was given an extension, on contractual basis, till May 2016.