Rajat Pandit,TNN | Aug 21, 2014, 05.46 AM IST
NEW DELHI: The “Chalta Hai” attitude will no longer do. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed the DRDO to ensure delivery of cutting-edge weapon systems to the armed forces in time to keep India ahead in the national security arena.
Though the stern message was couched in mild language, the intent behind it could not be lost. Most of DRDO projects, ranging from Tejas light combat aircraft to long-range surface-to-air missile systems, after all, are running years behind schedule with huge cost overruns.
The fact that India, which aspires to be a superpower, still embarrassingly imports over 65% of its military requirements is basically due to failure of successive governments to build a strong domestic defence-industrial base (DIB) as well as tardy performance of DRDO and its 50 labs, five defence PSUs, four shipyards and 39 ordnance factories.
India does not lack the requisite scientific talent and capability but this “chalta hai” attitude (lackadaisical) has put paid to all endeavours, said Modi at the annual DRDO awards function on Wednesday.
“The world will not wait for us. We have to run ahead of time. We should not say in 2014 that a project conceived in 1992 will take some more time,” said Modi. With defence technology evolving at a rapid rate around the globe, India cannot afford to conceptualize systems that are two steps behind what will soon hit the MARKET.
“DRDO has to decide whether it will only react to the situation, or become pro-active and set the agenda for the global community. I have hopes from DRDO because I know it has the capability to perform,” said Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the DRDO Awards 2013 function in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Defence minister Arun Jaitley also stressed that defence scientists had the “intellectual talent” to turn DRDO into “a hub for defence manufacturing” if they worked towards it in the right earnest.
But this might take some doing. For one, DRDO wants more FUNDS for R&D. For another, though it has over 7,500 scientists on its rolls, it wants to attract bright youngsters from top-notch institutions like the IITs with better incentives.
“Our intake of young scientists is down to just 70 per year. This is certainly not a good sign for an innovation-centric organization. Sanction of additional manpower at the rate of 300 per year for the next seven-eight years is essential for meeting technology challenges,” said DRDO chief Avinash Chander.
But it’s equally true that DRDO itself needs to be revamped and reformed. As reported by TOI earlier, the Rama Rao Committee (RRC) in 2008 held DRDO should focus only on 8 to 10 “critical technologies” of “strategic importance”, instead of making everything from dental implants and mosquito repellents to nuclear missiles and fighter jets.
Two key RRC recommendations, for instance, to establish a new Defence Technology Commission and a commercial arm for DRDO (as a private limited company with Rs 2 crore as seed capital) are yet to be implemented.