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DRDO under Parliament scanner; dna accesses House committee documents rapping organisation for shoddy research

New Delhi,Jyotika Sood(dna): India’s premier defence research organisation – Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) – is under Parliament scanner.

Shoddy research, inordinate delays, corruption and its fancy for reverse engineering have resulted in the Parliamentary standing committee on defence raising the red flag on DRDO budget for 2014-15.

According to documents accessed by dna, the committee has nailed DRDO on several occasions. It has asked DRDO to furnish details on how many new models, weapon systems and engines have been imported in the last 10 years in the name of study and modifications. “DRDO labs are more interested in importing systems, modifying them a little bit, re-labelling them and reselling them to forces,” the panel observed.

Of the 31-member committee, four members have defence background. “Where do you think DRDO stands in our military hardware preparedness vis-à-vis China today?” the committee said. It also asked DRDO to disclose those areas of technology where they are not competitive or behind the curve.

“There is a perception that DRDO is not really fulfilling its role; it is only doing normal non-commercial office work. DRDO should work out what is required by the services… futuristic and does not get outdated before it is introduced into services. People are expecting something extraordinary from DRDO, something out-of-the-box,” it said.

dna began its investigations in August this year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised DRDO during an address in Kargil.

“If a project was conceived in 1992, it should not be the case in 2014 we are still saying it will take some more time,” he had said. India, he said, has the potential to be a world leader in defence sector, but was being held back by a chalta hai attitude.

In the last 10 years, the DRDO budget has increased from Rs 3,443.18 crore to Rs 10,868.89 crore (around three times). However, it has completed/closed only 13 projects costing Rs 134.08 crore in 2013 14, while it got 52 new projects, costing Rs 1,651.59 crore from January 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014.

“DRDO’s mandate is to develop products and technologies to modernise our armed forces. It has shown a list of products developed by them. Please also furnish a list of technologies developed,” the committee said.

DRDO’s annual report says that, as on March 31, 2014, it was handling 339 projects costing approximately Rs 45,554.73 crore. Out of these, 37 projects cost above Rs 100 crore, and, in total, account for Rs 38,613.89 crore. This is approximately 85% of active project costs.

DRDO scientists are among the best paid in India. They get incentives like two additional increments on promotion, up to six variable increments on promotions granted on fast track, professional update allowance, opportunity to acquire higher qualifications at reputed institutes and residential complexes.

The committee also asked DRDO about its research on a Gujarat-based Sadhu, Prahlad Jani, who has been living on air. He does not eat and drink. A research on him was carried out in 2003 and 2010 and the committee asked if the outcome can be used in warfare.

Talking to dna, a committee member said on condition of anonymity: “DRDO is doing shoddy research and some parliamentarians seem to be encouraging it by asking how outcomes could be used in warfare. Are you going to deprive Indian soldiers food and water in harsh conditions like extreme heat and cold? It’s disgusting.”

“This is not the only example. Recently, in Pune, they developed a hi-tech chariot to be donated to a temple. Is it what they are supposed to do?” he said.

“There are also a number of irregularities like an institute director buying a Honda CRV for personal use from the institute’s budget, although that car was not fit for that terrain.

“A building construction project worth crores was given to National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) without proper tendering. There are also complaints of misbehaviour and harassment of officials and purchase of expensive tickets from Nagpur, home district of one DRDO institute director,” he said.

DRDO blames it on defence services, finance officers

DRDO has its own woes. They range from lack of testing facilities to infrastructure to shortage of funds to impractical demands of defence services. Another big reason is the rejection of DRDO technologies by defence services, terming them “inferior”, and their ‘preference’ for imported technologies.

A top DRDO official in Delhi said, “Top defence people visit international exhibitions and defence machinery manufacturers where they see the latest technologies. They collect brochures and after coming back, they shortlist good technologies from various options available, amalgamate them and ask DRDO to develop a product or technology. They don’t even bother to study the feasibility of their demands in context with the resources with us. That is one major reason for delay in aircraft and engines.”

“What they see in these exhibitions is imported technology where countries like the US, Russia and France have in-house raw materials building and manufacturing facilities. In India, we have to import even small components. This is one reason for the delay and increase in project costs,” he said.

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